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Areas of Innovation

  • Independent consultant at Zjak Consult / Founding partner and President of the Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)

Abstract and Figures

In February 2021, IADP published a new book on innovation areas to mark the fifth anniversary of IADP. Em. prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren and Paul Jansen MSc provided the texts. In seven chapters the reader gets a good insight into the latest developments in science parks and innovation districts. Contents: - Facilitating knowledge development - Success factors - Science parks: stimulating innovation or just iconic for firms? - Considerations for science parks to remain competitive - The emergence of innovation districts in the UK - The university as a catalyst in innovation district development - Managing the ecosystem - Quoted literature
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Areas of Innovation
Jacques van Dinteren
Paul Jansen
Areas of Innovation
Innovation Area Development Partnership
Copyright © 2021 Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP) / Jacques
van Dinteren & Paul Jansen. All rights reserved.
Cover design and styling: Jacques van Dinteren
Photos: Jacques van Dinteren, Paul Jansen, William Jezequiel
This book can be ordered by sending an e-mail to
Contact IADP:
Five years IADP .................................................................................................1
1. Facilitating knowledge development............................................ 3
2. Success factors ........................................................................... 12
3. Science parks: stimulating innovation or just iconic for firms? 23
4. Considerations for science parks to remain competitive ........... 31
5. The emergence of innovation districts in the UK ....................... 45
6. The university as a catalyst in innovation district development 56
7. Managing the ecosystem ........................................................... 69
Quoted literature ........................................................................................... 85
IADP partner
s 2016 2020
Amsterdam Science Park
Campus Groningen
City of Rotterdam
Foodvalley NL
Kadans Science Partner
Karres en Brands
KCAP Architects&Planners
La Salle Technova, Barcelona
Novio Tech Campus
P2/F2 Connect
Pivot Park
Polymer Science Park
Proof of the sum
Province of North-Brabant
Royal HaskoningDHV
Schiphol Area Development Company (SADC)
Strukton Worksphere
University of Amsterdam
Utrecht Science Park
Zjak Consult
Five years IADP
In 2016 we established the Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP).
Before, the two of us had been working on knowledge-intensive area
developments globally and developed a preference for interdisciplinary teams.
We strongly believe that such a working method leads to a better process and, in
the end, higher-quality output. We thought it would be a good idea to apply this
experience specifically to innovation areas; campuses, industrial co-innovation
parks, science parks and innovation districts. Today these areas of innovation are
driving forces in economic development. It is a complex challenge to create and
manage these buildings, locations and districts.
Our initiative was greeted with great enthusiasm, and soon we had formed a
team of international design, consultancy, finance and engineering firms who
assist initiators, owners, investors, developers and managers of innovation areas
all over the world. After establishing the organisation and sought publicity, we
were surprised to find many questions from managers of innovation areas to join
us as well. At first, we didn’t count on this (semi)public sector response, but this
interest was more than welcome.
Today the IADP is a well-known Dutch-based partnership that connects a network
of like-minded professionals and shares insights on these knowledge-intensive
work environments. The emphasis lies on interdisciplinary projects, research,
knowledge development, and, above all, knowledge sharing. Moreover, the IADP
offers the combined expertise to support developers, investors, companies,
knowledge institutes and governments working on the (re)development and
management of different types of innovation areas.
We also share our knowledge with a larger audience by engaging them in all kind
of activities, giving lectures, and writing articles. We see this jubilee book as an
excellent opportunity to present some of our ideas and views. We believe that
this book provides all kind of ideas and insights that will contribute to better and
stronger innovation areas. In the meantime, we will continue our activities, work
together and look forward to the following five years of IADP.
The founding partners,
Em. prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren
Paul Jansen MSc
IADP in the picture
IASP World Conference, 2019
Project meeting, 2016
IADP Winter Seminar, 2018
1. Facilitating knowledge development; from science
park to innovation district
Modern economies see many innovative companies and institutions that are
involved in data, knowledge and information, and in acquiring, researching and
passing these on. For the majority of these organisations, an office building is
sufficient. However, when it comes to fundamental research, particularly in the
field of science and technology, stricter requirements are imposed.
Some of the innovative companies need specific work location concepts that
respond to this. In general, we distinguish three types of innovation areas:
- The science park 1 that creates a business environment for innovation-
oriented companies, knowledge institutions and support services. Many
science parks have been formed around a university or another knowledge
institution (sometimes located at a greater distance).
- The industrial co-innovation park that is comparable to a science park, but
where the companies and institutions do not have a knowledge institution or
university as a pivot, but a leading innovative company (think, for example, of
the DSM campuses in The Netherlands).
- The innovation district that has a strong mix of functions (knowledge
institutions, innovative companies, housing and facilities) and that can usually
be found in or around city centres. In many cases, the realisation of such a
district coincides with a restructuring of the urban environment. The concept
is emerging in Europe (already more established in the United States) and
currently has 22@barcelona and Knowledge Quarter in London as examples.
This chapter discusses those specific concepts and how they have evolved from a
real estate concept to a more economic, network and community concept.
Moreover, new ideas have emerged over the past two decades, which we will
discuss here.
Characteristics of science parks
Knowledge development and innovation are essential elements in the economies
of most countries. Successful innovation policies cannot ignore the physical
environment that companies - large and small - need to successfully work on
ideas, knowledge generation and knowledge exchange, aimed at innovative
products and services. Usually, these are unique buildings and involve large
investments in offices as well as laboratories, clean rooms, small-scale (pilot)
production units, and so on. These can thrive in many places, but economic
researchers assume that a concentration of such buildings - and, in fact, of
1 In this book we classify technology parks among science parks.
innovative companies - leads to added value for the companies located there.
Although research into these effects shows somewhat mixed results, the assumed
added value of clustering has resulted in the establishment of numerous science
parks. Numbers are difficult to give, in the absence of a clear definition. An
indication is the number of members of the International Association of Science
Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP; see currently around four
When it comes to clustering innovative companies, the science park is relatively
the oldest concept. Since the creation of science parks in the early 1950s, quite a
few different definitions have been given. For example, the IASP places a strong
emphasis in the science park as an organisation of professionals who are
committed to the exchange of information flows between companies and
knowledge institutions, who promote innovation in companies and who help
start-ups and spin-offs.
Hansson (2004), on the other hand, takes a closer look at its appearance and
establishes, based on various definitions, that it almost always involves the
physical proximity of a university, a focus on knowledge and high-tech companies
and that there is an organisation in place that helps start-ups.
We are in favour of the definition of the IASP. In our opinion, it is primarily about
stimulating innovation through well-functioning networks. Real estate and area
development cannot be left out, but are of secondary importance here.
The development of science parks is a relatively recent phenomenon: only 4% of
European science parks were established before 1980; 27% were established in
the 1980s and the rest after (European Commission, 2014). Science parks are
mainly an urban and even more so a metropolitan phenomenon. A random
sample shows that only 6% of the parks are located outside a city, and 40% can be
found in a city with more than a million inhabitants (see
In Europe, two-thirds of science parks are located on university grounds, and 17%
of the parks are no more than 5 km away from a university (European
Commission, 2014). Earlier research by the IASP showed that worldwide, in about
40% of cases, the university is located in or near the science park. The lack of a
clear link with a university can lead to malfunctioning (Ratinho et al., 2007).
Incidentally, malfunctioning can also be the case if the concept is not taken
seriously and companies establish themselves there mainly because of its image
(see chapter 3).
Incidentally, this relationship with the university is not necessarily based on an
intense exchange of knowledge between the knowledge institution and the
companies based in the park. The availability of all kinds of facilities and a pool of
students (work placements) and graduates play an important role and sometimes
seem more important than knowledge exchange (European Commission, 2014;
see chapter 3). In itself, it should not be so strange that a company for the
exchange of knowledge and co-innovation is not focused on the adjacent
university. When it comes to crucial knowledge or information, this transcends
the region in which the company is located (Weterings & Ponds, 2007). Yet it is
the mutual relationships between companies and knowledge institutions that
distinguish a science park from a regular business park or office park. The
management of a science park (that there is management, is also a distinguishing
feature) usually puts a lot of effort into these relationships and tries to promote
contacts between companies, and between companies and knowledge
institutions. This creates an informal circuit ('local buzz') that leads to substantial
positive effects in the creation of innovation networks between local actors
(Capello & Morrison, 2005), although a book can also be written about the
differences of opinion on this point.
Although stimulating networking, cooperation, and the exchange of knowledge
are essential for well-functioning area management, attention is equally focused
on creating a community. A community can include networks, but in our opinion,
the community is a somewhat 'looser' concept. A community involves informal
contact between employees, meeting each other at seminars, organising sports
competitions, concerts, etc., all in a well-designed environment that promotes
Campusses and non-campusses
The relationship between a science park and a university was briefly discussed
above. However, a science park can also develop around another important
knowledge institution; even a company can be the linchpin. In the latter case, it is
better to speak of an (industrial) co-innovation park. Whereas the crystallisation
point in a science park is a university, in a co-innovation park it is a leading
industrial company. Examples in The Netherlands are the Biotech Campus Delft
(DSM), the Chemelot Campus (DSM, Sittard/Geleen) or the Novio Tech Campus
(NXP, Nijmegen). The High Tech Campus in Eindhoven can also be described as a
co-innovation park, as it originated around the Philips NatLab. The co-innovation
park focuses on cooperation (co-innovation) between the leading company and
other companies and institutions established or to be found around this company.
In addition to these industrial co-innovation parks, all of which bear the name
campus, many other ‘campuses’ have developed in The Netherlands in recent
years. However, these are campuses where there is little or no exchange of
knowledge or co-innovation. It leads to a devaluation of the concept, for the sake
of - in our eyes - cheap and little creative marketing. This broad interpretation of
the concept seems typical of The Netherlands. Dutch marketers, real estate
developers and municipalities have more or less given it their meaning. Abroad
the term is first and foremost used for a university campus, usually with
accommodation for students and staff.
In The Netherlands, due to unclear circumstances - or it must have been
marketing - the term campus has more or less coincided with a science park.
However, it is questionable whether, for example, the Dairy Campus (meeting
place for the dairy industry), KNVB campus (sports training) and, more recently, a
campus for the development of financial technology, are at the heart of the idea.
If we are going to call every development a campus, how is it to be clear to the
outsider that this is a development that is focused on innovation? So, we want to
see the term reserved for serious, innovation-oriented developments, if used at
Figure 1: Novio Tech Campus, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. An example of an
industrial co-innovation park
Working environment
While during the emergence of science parks the emphasis was often on physical
development, people involved have gradually come to realise that science parks
require a completely different approach. About two decades ago, the adage
'brains, no bricks' was introduced. This was opposed to a science park as purely a
real estate development. This change in thinking does not alter the fact that the
built environment is still vital to stimulate the process of creativity, interaction
and innovation (Van Dinteren & Keeris, 2014). The importance of this is even
increasing, now that people realise that an attractive (physical) working
environment contributes to creativity and competitiveness. In this respect, we
could make a distinction between facilities for employees and facilities for
The sharing of facilities for companies, with which one also hopes for knowledge
sharing and synergy, is an important reason why companies establish themselves
in a co-innovation park or science park. Even more important than the actual
possibilities for collaboration with the university itself, according to research
among entrepreneurs established in Dutch science parks. In addition to the
presence of a young student population, the availability of information systems,
laboratories and clean rooms play a role (see chapter 3).
When it comes to facilities for employees (including the ambience created by
buildings, building design and 'landscaping'), management follows the following
line of reasoning: if employees enjoy their work, they work better. And if they
work better, it has positive effects on productivity and creativity. Ultimately, this
leads to better results for the company. More than two-thirds of the
entrepreneurs in Dutch science parks agree (entirely) with the statement that
"given the increasing shortage on the labour market for highly educated people, a
science park must offer an optimal working environment" (Van Dinteren & Pfaff,
2011). Such an environment involves extensive facilities (such as shops, a
hairdresser, catering or fitness) and an attractively designed park with
recreational facilities (such as walking and running routes, and meeting places). A
concept such as Enjoy Work is therefore not primarily about the target group, but
about creating such a stimulating working climate (see; Van
Dinteren, 2007).
Figure 2: a high quality work environment (Future Campus, University College Dublin.
A project by UNStudio)
New developments: economies of scale
The science park concept is not static. Given the nature of the activities and
institutions, it focuses on, that is not to be expected either. Whereas until the
beginning of this century the concept was mainly seen as a standalone activity
and often primarily as property development, today the science park is much
more seen as a concentration point in an innovative region. As a result, more
attention is now being paid to the embedding of the park in its region. This also
emphasises the importance of the development of regional knowledge networks
between the science park and solitary companies and knowledge institutions.
As science parks came up against the limits of growth, 'branches' were often
developed elsewhere in the region, which further emphasised the regional
networking. Among the members of the IASP, one in three has two or more
locations. We see similar trends in The Netherlands. Utrecht Science Park has a
satellite location in Bilthoven, which has a different owner. Campus Groningen is
the umbrella term for the Zernike Science Park and the Healthy Ageing Campus
(around the University Medical Center Groningen). Consideration is also being
given, for example, to the possibilities of better linking, coordinating and
promoting activities in the field of life sciences (individual companies; science
parks) on the Oss/Schaijk-Nijmegen-Boxmeer axis.
In light of this same process of scaling up, the concept of innovation area has
emerged in recent years as an indication of an innovation-oriented region. To
avoid ambiguity in terminology, we reserve the designation innovation areaas
an umbrella term for science parks, co-innovation parks and innovation districts
(see below). We prefer to refer to an innovative region as an innovation-oriented
region. In such a region, various crystallisation points can usually be found like
industrial co-innovation parks and science parks. Above all, it is essential that
here, too, there is overarching management. Amata Science City in Thailand and
Ann Arbor SPARK in the United States are examples of this on a regional scale
(more about management in chapter 7).
New developments: innovation districts
In addition to co-innovation parks and science parks, innovation districts have
attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. Initially, the development
seems to have taken off, particularly in the United States. With a small
adjustment, we use the definition of Sanz (2016) for an innovation area for that of
an innovation district: "A designated zone with its own specific management
team, whose main objectives include economic development via the promotion
and attraction of selective innovative business for which specific services are
provided or made available, and that may also include residential and cultural
zones or facilities, or be embedded in urban spaces having such facilities, and with
which the economic aspects of the area of innovation interact.”
As with the other concepts, in an innovation district, management is of great
importance, but function mixing is a relatively new element here. The link with a
university may be less intense but can be partially overcome by an annexe (see
also chapter 6). A well-known example is the Boston Innovation District, which
has a surface area of approximately 150 ha (see Rodriguez, 2015). Interesting is
the possibility of such a development coinciding with the redevelopment of a
neighbourhood or district. Boston and 22@Barcelona are striking examples. The
innovation district will not replace the science park. It should be seen as a new
concept, alongside that of the science park and the industrial co-innovation park.
Figure 3: the redevelopment of the area around the railway station of Eindhoven (The
Netherlands) can be considered as an innovation district (a project by
KCAP Architects&Planners)
Evolution of area management
Whereas initially the management placed a strong emphasis on the care for real
estate, this accent was soon combined with the provision of services and facilities,
which in turn was followed by the desire to create a business network in the
science park (or broader: the area of innovation). Matchmaking, seminars and
support with patent applications are matters we see in the basic service package
of the extensive management. The next step - again: in an ideal-typical process - is
to connect not only the companies and institutions but also the people working in
the innovation area.
How management actually takes shape varies considerably; there is no particular
model. It seems that each innovation area has its variant. The chosen form is
highly dependent on the parties involved and the chosen emphases. To start with
those accents: broadly speaking, this means a distinction in infrastructure,
buildings and facilities, as well as non-physical matters such as community
building, networking and so on. This variety of tasks requires employees in the
management team from very different backgrounds.
When we look at the parties involved, local authorities, universities and private
(real estate) parties come into the picture the most (European Commission, 2014;
see also European Commission, 2020). This can, for example, lead to a joint
venture between a university and an investor, as was initially the case with the
Oxford Science Park. The area management team is small in size, has specific
experts and mainly outsources tasks. The Surrey Research Park (UK) is entirely in
the hands of the university, which started the development financially, by first
selling a large plot of land to a big, leading company (after which everything was
leased out). The management here is divided into three departments: one for real
estate, another for technology transfer and business management (the networks),
and a more general department that focuses on planning, marketing, admission
policy and financial management.
What experiences have taught us
Different types of innovation areas can contribute to a region's innovative
strength. Experience with the development and management of science parks
and co-innovation parks makes it clear that success depends on several strict
conditions (see chapter 2). A close assessment of all kinds of ideas and
developments, which are now, or will be, marketed mainly in The Netherlands
under the name of campus, will probably show that many of these initiatives do
not meet these conditions. Too often this is an unrealistic, unsubstantiated dream
of a mayor or alderman, who later leaves the community with high costs.
We would also like to remind you that, unlike the development of a regular
business park, most of the activities of the management of an innovation area do
not stop after the issuance phase. This management is crucial in the exploitation
phase of innovation areas. Today, park management that only looks at real estate
and asset management is entirely off the mark. Innovation areas explicitly call for
the development of a community of employees and the creation of networks
between companies and institutions. The trick is to combine these 'soft' elements
with the 'hard' side of real estate (see chapter 7, which deals in more detail with
the management of areas of innovation).
In the last decades, the financing of that property has not been able to count
directly on warm interest from the financial sector, both in terms of construction
financing and the loan capital to be contributed. Because of the return or risk
profile of R&D-related real estate and in comparison, with other real estate
investment categories, this reluctance is unjustified. This real estate segment is
struggling - partly due to a lack of useful statistics - with the phenomenon of
'unknown makes unloved' (Van Dinteren & Keeris, 2014). In recent years,
however, we have seen parties entering the market who see investing in
innovation areas as a serious and attractive business.
In conclusion
In conclusion, against the background of the changes outlined, we want to state
that the older generation of science parks requires redevelopment, with more
emphasis on networking and community. Furthermore, we need to look at how
the physical environment can be restructured to promote this social dimension
(see chapter 4).
For their part, new parks and districts will have to find a good combination of hard
and soft factors from the outset. They must be embedded in the regional
economy, be part of wide-ranging innovation programmes and be managed,
based on integrated management philosophy. And all this in an attractive spatial
setting with real estate, which optimally facilitates this new way of working.
IADP in the picture
IADP Autumn Seminar, 2017
IASP World Conference, 2019
2. Success factors
Innovation is the keyword in government plans to strengthen the economic
climate. Numerous conditions will have to be created for a successful innovation
policy. What cannot be overlooked in this process is the specific environment that
businesses require to be able to work on new ideas, products and services
successfully. Areas of innovation can provide such an environment. The
development of areas of innovation is many times more complex than the
development of a regular business park. Therefore, the development of such
areas calls for a well-grounded integrated plan. It also requires clear ideas for,
among others, park management, financing, guidelines for buildings, property
Given the importance of innovation areas in supporting economic development,
these areas are given due attention in research. This research will make it possible
to identify success factors. Based on papers presented at various IASP
conferences (International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation),
we have drawn up the first list in 2015 (
factors-science-parks-jacques-van-dinteren/). More research is now available and
sometimes the success factors themselves are also the subject of research (see
for example Faria c.s., 2019; Jansz c.s., 2019; Pancholi c.s., 2015; Poonjan c.s.
2019; Weng c.s.; 2019). These new publications provide the opportunity to refine
and expand the list made previously. Once again, we make a distinction between
regional factors and factors relating to the development itself. The focus here is
limited to science parks.
Success factors: regional conditions
As mentioned earlier in chapter 1, there is a clear relationship between a
region and a science park. It is impossible for a science park (or any other
type of innovation area) to get off the ground or function properly if
certain regional conditions are not met. Important conditions on a
regional scale are:
- Incorporated in a national innovation policy.
- The presence of tertiary education, universities and other research
- Entrepreneurial culture.
- A well-functioning network of innovative/creative businesses and
- Industrial structure.
- A well-functioning labour market of knowledge workers.
- An attractive residential and living environment.
- The degree of urbanisation.
- Available sources of financing.
Incorporated in a national innovation policy
Proper interaction between the region (regional government) and the national
government can influence success, partly because it is a form of recognition of the
potential present in the area.
Figure 4: the Hoa Lac National Innovation Centre in Vietnam is directly linked with the
national strategy on Industry 4.0. to create a world-class technology start-up ecosystem in
Vietnam (a project by Arup)
Entrepreneurial culture
Cultural aspects partly determine the innovative strength of a region. Perhaps
because this is difficult to investigate or prove, researchers limit themselves to
mentioning characteristics such as (mutual) trust, creativity, focus on cooperation
and innovation. The region needs to buzz and bubble’. In The Netherlands,
regions such as Rotterdam and Eindhoven often already have such a profile. It
sometimes leads to notable developments such as the Brainport Industry Campus
in Eindhoven; a concept that originated from the manufacturing industry itself.
The presence of tertiary education, universities and other research institutes
Research shows that successfully establishing strong partnerships with university
scientists leads to higher performance levels of science parks and more generally
of innovation areas. This interaction is often mentioned, but it should be
remembered that universities are also the 'suppliers' of highly skilled workers and
have research equipment that can be used by third parties under certain
conditions. A university that functions as an 'entrepreneurial university' is
generally highly valued.
A well-functioning network of innovative/creative businesses and institutions
A reliable network of companies and research institutions is a frequently
mentioned regional condition in the research literature and a unique aspect of
the aforementioned entrepreneurial culture. Strong, specialised economies with
an excellent regional or local innovative ecosystem form a strong basis for
prosperous areas of innovation. Think of Dutch examples such as Foodvalley (Ede
- Wageningen region) and Life Cooperative (in Groningen). An example where a
regional branch of a financial institute took the initiative is RvN@ in the Nijmegen
Industrial structure
The industrial structure of a region must also be considered. After all, different
industries have varying degrees of innovation orientation. The already existing
regional industrial system is a common theme in research papers on success
factors. The importance of a robust technological base is usually mentioned in the
first place.
A well-functioning labour market of knowledge workers
Technology and knowledge companies and institutions depend even more than
other economic sectors on well-educated, creative workers. The region must be
able to attract and retain these knowledge workers.
An attractive residential and living environment
An attractive residential and living environment is an essential condition for
attracting highly educated employees and retaining knowledge workers already
living in the area.
Degree of urbanisation
Large, diverse, metropolitan regions in established developed economies are one
of the key factors influencing the success of science parks and other areas of
innovation because of easy access to skilled human labour, financial investment,
support institutions, face-to-face meetings and so on. The so-called conurbation
benefits or economies of scale.
Available sources of financing
Innovative companies often need a long development period for their products.
This requires, among other things, specific financial arrangements from
cooperating financial institutions and access to other sources of funding, such as
innovation funds. Availability of financial support is vital for the performance of
companies and institutions located in innovation areas. In addition to a
government grant and investment funds, regional development entities or
business angels can be considered. However, there is still a lot to be gained in
terms of cooperation between different financial parties (pooling of strengths;
risk diversification).
Success factors at the science park level
It will be apparent that the developer or manager of a science park will usually
have little influence on the regional factors mentioned above. Cooperation with
local and regional authorities is therefore obvious. On the other hand, the
manager/developer has more power (if not decisive) in the science park itself.
Firstly, we list the success factors and will then detail the main themes.
The key success factors for the science park itself are:
- Good embedding of the park in local or regional economic policy.
- Thorough market research, resulting in an appealing concept and a long-term
strategy with a flexible development framework.
- A clear profile:
˃ clear distinguishing concept, profiling, target group (degree of
mixing of functions), admission strategy;
˃ presence of anchor companies or institutions.
- Attractive, target-group-focused design:
˃ the scale of development;
˃ quality of physical infrastructure (including communication
˃ attractive design/landscaping, including a variety of meeting places;
˃ high-quality architecture.
- Good service infrastructure for companies:
˃ a strong mutual network of companies and institutions;
˃ targeted advisory services;
˃ shared facilities;
˃ business-oriented events;
˃ embedding in regional and (inter)national innovation networks.
- Creativity stimulating working environment:
˃ provisions for employees;
˃ events.
- Strong management organisation.
Embedding in regional policy
The development of a science park (or any other type of innovation area) must be
explicitly embedded in a regional or local innovation strategy to promote
economic growth. One of the reasons is - as mentioned earlier - that a science
park is not a stand-alone development. Established businesses are interlinked, but
they also have links with the region and more distant areas. A region with several
interconnected innovation areas can have an added value. Think, for example, of
Ann Arbor SPARK in the United States of America or the connected science parks
in Heidelberg (Germany).
Market, concept and long-term strategy
One must base the development of a science park on sound market research.
Based on this research, the target group can be demarcated, and a distinctive
concept can be devised (figure 5). This must be laid down in a clear vision and a
(flexible) long-term strategy to achieve the formulated goals. Because a specific
target group is chosen, it should be taken into account that the development time
is longer than in a more traditional development, such as a business park.
A clear profile
A clear choice for one or more target groups is the basis for a clear profile. The
management is responsible for a strict admission strategy and must adhere to it.
Such a policy has consequences for the turnaround time and therefore for the
financial exploitation. Managers of science parks and innovation areas around the
world give the impression of following a severe admission strategy. Focusing on
innovationis the most popular admission requirement. Technological
orientationis the second most common answer. Nevertheless, research on eight
science parks in the Netherlands showed that on average only 33% of the
companies on these science parks were targeted (see chapter 3 for the details).
In addition to the target group, there may be room for complementary
companies, such as consultancies and other specific (technical) service providers.
Figure 5: a functional concept for the Solvay industrial co-innovation park, Brussels
(Zjak Consult, Caudata)
Certainly, in the start-up phase, having an anchor tenant can have a positive
effect on attracting other companies and institutions.
After making a clear choice in terms of target group and real estate concept,
management and stakeholders must then ensure that the science park has a clear
identity. This identity, for example, is elaborated in the name and logo and must
be expressed distinctly and consistently externally by all parties involved.
Another point to consider when choosing a target group is the following. The
trends also include the increasing interest of companies in crossovers, with
entrepreneurs assuming that this leads to (better) innovations and better
business results. This largely abandons the idea that innovations come about in a
specialised cluster of companies. On the other hand, the idea of crossovers does
not indicate a complete abandonment of an admission policy. On the contrary,
companies and institutions should be selected based on another criterion, namely
having a so-called common knowledge base. The keyword here is 'related variety'.
This concept assumes that regions and also science parks can benefit from
producing a variety of products and services since more variety implies more
potential for knowledge dissemination between industries. Knowledge from one
sector is most relevant to and can best be absorbed by another industry that is
related in the sense that companies use similar knowledge (about technology,
markets, etc.). In this case, the regional setting should also be taken into account,
as relations between companies and institutions are never limited to the science
park itself.
Figure 6: Utrecht Science Park Bilthoven, The Netherlands, has a clear identity due to its
strong focus on the entire vaccination chain (a project by Arup, Caudata,
Karres en Brands, Proof of the sum and Zjak Consult)
An attractive design, aimed at the target group
This concerns the scale of the development, the quality of the physical
infrastructure, the layout of the public space, and urban planning and
The scale of a development will influence the effect. The larger the park, the more
companies and institutions can be accommodated and the more opportunities for
interaction. Moreover, a large area offers more support for additional functions,
and even a mix with housing can be a consideration (see chapter 4).
The infrastructure must be up-to-date, and the communication infrastructure
must be state-of-the-art. Infrastructure also includes access to the science park.
Due to the often-peripheral location of science parks on the outskirts of cities, car
use is generally high. In English science parks, for example, we are now seeing
increasing interest in improving public transport, and science park owners are also
investing in this.
There should also be an overarching urban development concept and a
coordinating urban planner who supervises the architecture of the individual
buildings. Because of long-term planning, flexibility in the concept is crucial.
Nowadays, sustainability plays an essential role in all plans.
Research has also shown the positive effect of landscape architecture on the
mood of workers. Semi-natural, not too formally designed areas are particularly
appreciated. Attractive landscaping can be combined with informal meeting
places, fitness areas, etc. It also goes hand in hand, of course, with objectives
relating to sustainable development. Green Park in Reading (UK) is an excellent
example of sustainability combined with landscaping.
Renting out buildings by a single owner (or a minimum number), combined with
tradable or flexible leases and competent property management, offers
companies many growth opportunities on a science park.
Services for companies and institutions
Although no weight can be given to the various success factors, available services
for companies and institutions may be an exception. Indeed, many researchers
stress the importance of excellent facilities, especially sharing them. Facility
sharing (including opportunities for knowledge sharing and synergy) is the reason
why companies establish themselves in a science park. This factor is even more
important than cooperation with the university, research among entrepreneurs
based on Dutch science parks shows. These entrepreneurs also stressed the
importance of the availability of information systems, laboratories and clean
rooms. At a somewhat lower level, but still very much appreciated, are catering,
meeting rooms and restaurants (see chapter 3).
From an organisational point of view, there are two main options here, which will
often co-exist. Firstly, private parties will take the lead. Think for example of Igluu
OneSpace and Igluu DaySpace (office space). At Oxford Science Park you can rent
laboratory space by the hour. Also, it is precisely the organisation around the
sharing of facilities (the management as an intermediary) and possibly the
development and management of these facilities that is a task for science park
Creativity stimulating working environment
In addition to the facilities for companies, there is increasing recognition of the
importance of a good working climate for employees. Established companies and
institutions have an essential role to play here, but the overall management
certainly also has to be involved. More than two-thirds of the entrepreneurs
based on Dutch science parks agree (entirely) with the statement that, "because
of the increasing shortage on the labour market for highly educated people, a
science park must offer an optimal working environment". Such an environment
involves extensive facilities (such as shops, a hairdresser, catering or fitness) and
an attractively designed park with recreational facilities (such as walking and
running routes, and meeting places). A concept such as Enjoy Work (Chiswick
Park, London) is therefore not primarily about the target group, but about
creating such a stimulating working environment. First of all, it is striking that the
management of Chiswick Park mainly consists of people with hotel management
training. In addition to facilities such as sports facilities, a range of services and a
shopping service on the intranet, courses can also be followed at the end of the
day, for example, and there are numerous events.
Spatial clustering of these services, together with a ban on own catering facilities
and large meeting rooms, has led to a lively movement of people at the High Tech
Campus in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). Such dynamism improves the quality of
life and can lead to unexpected encounters.
The essential role of science park management
It has already been pointed out that a science park is distinguished from the
development of a common working area by the strong emphasis placed on
management. This distinction is first and foremost due to the idea behind a
science park: to promote networking and interaction. With the latter, a distinction
can be made between companies and institutions on the one hand and
employees on the other. Two perspectives can then be distinguished in campus
management, which in turn can be further subdivided:
- Area management (the physical area):
o real estate;
o public space.
- Ecosystem management (socio-spatial system of relations and activities):
o network management (aimed at companies and institutions,
including the provision of associated facilities, matchmaking,
seminars, support with financing and patent applications, etc.);
o community management (focused on employees; concerns facilities
and events).
There are many ways to manage a business, and there are also many ways to run
an innovation area (see chapter 7). When analysing management concepts,
ownership is an important starting point. A survey by IASP in 2012 shows that the
public sector dominates: public parties, mainly local authorities, public
universities and regional authorities own 55% of science parks in Europe. The
owner can be a single party, but also an alliance of these public parties. 15% of
the science parks are privately owned (private universities and foundations and
private companies) and 31% have mixed ownership. In the latter case, local
government, public universities and private companies dominate.
Generally, a modest attitude on the part of local government is seen as a factor
for success. Indeed, the setting up and management of a science park requires
very specific knowledge which is usually not present in a municipality. Moreover,
there is a risk that a local authority with financial interests in science park
development will be more willing to abandon the concept or make concessions
than other parties involved if the land issue does not proceed at the desired pace.
Hence the comment made earlier about the importance of more extended
exploitation periods. On the other hand, the local government is the ideal partner
in the policy of creating conditions.
Finally, it can be noted that the activities of management are seldom evaluated.
Such an evaluation can best be done by approaching established companies and
institutions once every two years with a survey, whether or not combined with
work sessions and in-depth interviews. An external party can best do this. Such an
evaluation can provide a lot of valuable information that leads to adjustments in
the set-up of the science park and its management.
Essential success factors in the management of a science park are then:
- A mix of management objectives, looking at both the physical aspects and the
socio-spatial aspects, the latter distinguishing between the companies &
institutions and the employees.
- Close cooperation between the parties concerned.
- A limited, facilitating role for local government.
- A regular evaluation of the functioning of the science park through research
among companies, institutions and employees.
The following figure summarises the success factors.
Figure 7: success factors
3. Science parks: stimulating innovation or just iconic for
firms? 2
Science parks can play a significant role in our knowledge or network economy as
focal points for R&D and innovation within a highly innovative region. The firms
and organisations established in these parks are the key players in this
development, and their role seems seldom be questioned. Nevertheless, as
science parks often have a well-designed environment and have high-quality
buildings, one could suppose that it can attract firms that are very much
interested in the appeal of the park. Being established in a science park is quite
different from having an establishment in some industrial estate and will
undoubtedly have an impact on the image of the firm. Some literature touches
the subject incidentally. Löfsten and Lindelöf (2002) cite two studies by Monck et
al. (1988) and Westhead and Storey (1992). They claim that some firms have
moved to science parks because of the image and overall prestige of the site,
rather because of access to facilities of the higher education institute or centre of
research and the stature of being linked to this institute or centre of research.
Ferguson and Olofsson (2004) studied differences between new technology-based
firms on and off two Swedish science parks. They concluded that the image
associated with a science park location does not help explain growth, whereas a
site with cooperation with universities is positively associated with growth. A
study of Spanish science parks led to a typology of firms (Molas Gallart, 2009). The
first type only exploits the real estate services provided by the science park,
“benefiting from the image and physical infrastructure endowed by their
location.” This also seems the case for Type II firms. Unfortunately, there is no
information about the relative size of these groups.
The previous is not meant to argue that the image of a science park does not
matter. As in the case of any ‘product’, image matters to attract (in this case)
highly innovative firms and research organisations. The attraction factor is not
restricted to the built environment: “An image of success plays a key role in
attracting tenants, talented people to work for the tenants and in building local
support and understanding of the park’s activities” (Dabrowska, 2011). But if it is
only about the image, the primary goals of a science park are not realised.
Based on an exploratory study at six Dutch science parks (see also Van Dinteren,
2009), this chapter presents an initial picture of the characteristics of the science
park concept and attempts to evaluate its significance. The following parks are
2 Previously released by Jacques van Dinteren as a paper for the 41st Annual Conference of
Regional Science Association International, British and Irish Section, Galway, Ireland,
August 2012.
involved in the study: the Bio Science Park (Leiden), the High Tech Campus
(Eindhoven), the Mercator Science Park (Nijmegen), the Zernike Science Park
(Groningen), the Amsterdam Science Park and the Business & Science Park in
Enschede. In total, we have received 134 usable questionnaires. The response
varied by park from 20% to 43%. Weighted for the number of companies, that
comes to an average of 27%. Not an exceptionally high percentage, but
unfortunately characteristic of written questionnaires in companies nowadays.
The level of significance maintained in this research is 5%.
Table 1: comparison of the statements concerning
knowledge productivity and image
Proposition on image
Proposition on
Image versus knowledge
Let us begin not with facts but with opinions. In the survey, we presented the
companies some propositions. For two of these, a striking contrast arose, almost
a complete difference of opinion. We will first take a look at these two
propositions. Of the companies, 47% (completely) agree with the statement,
“Because of the presence of companies and knowledge institutions directly
around our company, the knowledge productivity in our company is
considerably higher than in another location.” However, 65% of companies also
(totally) agree with the following statement: “In practice, a science park does
not really turn out to offer our company a great deal in terms of relations with
knowledge institutions and other businesses. But it is definitely a good way of
making our company known (marketing; image).”
There is a strong negative relationship between the scores for these two
statements. Of the respondents who (completely) disagree with the proposition
that setting up in a science park does not provide many advantages in the area
of knowledge productivity but is good for the company’s image, 80%
(completely) agrees with the proposition that knowledge productivity is much
higher in a science park than outside (table 1). This relationship can also be
found the other way around. Choosing a science park for reasons of image
seldom goes together with choosing a science park because of the (expected)
increased knowledge productivity.
If we now divide the population into four subgroups, as indicated with the
colours in table 1, some interesting differences come to light. We describe the
four groups as knowledge seekers (positive about knowledge productivity;
attach no importance to image), image builders (the opposite view), the mixed
group (find image important, but also experience higher knowledge productivity)
and the indifferent group (at least where these two aspects are concerned). The
combination of attaching importance to knowledge production and the image
does not occur that often: the mixed group has a small share of 9%. The largest
group is that of the image builders (43%). The other two subgroups have
practically the same percentage: 25% of respondents are counted among the
knowledge seekers and 23% among the indifferent.
Aspects related to the place of business
In the questionnaire, a distinction is made between reasons for choosing the
location at a regional level and those for setting up in the science park itself.
Looking at the reasons for choosing the region, the companies were allowed to
indicate the three most important factors. The closeness of the university and/or
knowledge institutions scored highly (20%), followed by the more traditional
factors such as geographical location (15%), easy accessibility (14%) and
“historically developed like that” (13%). Only then comes a factor that can be
related to knowledge and innovation: the availability of highly trained staff (8%).
Among the most critical factors for their choice of location in terms of the actual
science park, from the companies’ point of view, two specifically ‘science-park
aspects’ score relatively highly. These are, in the first place, the presence of other
companies and/or knowledge institutions (21%) and the available networks of
companies and knowledge institutions (12%). Here, too, the more traditional
factors such as the location’s image (16%), the availability of a representative
building (14%) and the rent and service costs (11%) feature high in the list.
If we look at the different aspects concerning the chosen place of business for
the four different subgroups, then we can observe significant differences for six
factors (figure 8). Unsurprisingly, the closeness of a university is of above-
average importance to the knowledge seekers. The presence of networks
between companies and institutions is also considered to be important by this
group. Conversely, for the image builders, the geographical location is essential,
as is the accessibility and, as might be expected, the location’s image. The aspect
‘representative building’ though shows no significant differences. Accessibility
counts as well for the 'indifferent' companies, and this group also sees the
location’s image as (very) important.
It is above all the knowledge seekers who emphasise the aspects connected with
a science park, although the firms in the mixed group even consider the
availability of higher educated personnel of greater importance than the
knowledge seekers. The other groups attach more value to more ‘regular’
Figure 8: differences in the evaluation of factors in choosing a place of business (the
percentage that finds the aspect in question important or very important)
Significance of the university for the companies
A science park is generally associated with the presence of a university. In the
cases studied here, the universities except for Eindhoven can be found in or
next to the park. The fact that the university is so close is not a rule, since for
science parks worldwide the university is located in or in the direct vicinity of the
science park in only about 40% of the cases.
Of the companies in the study population, a third works together with the
neighbouring university in the area of R&D. The differences between the
company groupings highlighted here are substantial. Unsurprisingly, the
proportion is highest among the knowledge seekers (55%), followed by the
‘indifferent’ with 38%. In the small group that chose both knowledge productivity
and image, the proportion is 25%. Only 18% of the image builders collaborate in
any way with the university in the field of R&D. The partnerships are usually
strong and are generally formal.
The study asks about the opportunities that a university can offer the company
operating in a science park. For many of the elements given, the companies
indicate that these are not relevant to them. Depending on the different
possibilities, around 30 to 50% indicate that they are irrelevant for them (figure
9). That applies particularly to contract research and teaching at the university.
For many companies, it is also not very important that all sorts of research
activities take place nearby universities or that their employees may be offered
academic programmes.
Figure 9: assessment of the opportunities from the neighbouring university
If we examine the companies for which certain aspects are relevant (figure 9),
then the most important are the availability of graduate students, the access to
libraries and data systems, and the access to laboratories and clean rooms. Only
after that come the aspects more directly associated with research such as the
opportunities for joint research between the company and the university and the
presence of relevant research activities.
Given the idea of what a science park is (or ought to be), one could assume that
the latter aspects, such as contract research, would achieve much higher scores.
Here, too, the picture becomes more apparent when we examine the four
subgroups. If we look at the knowledge seekers, these show above-average scores
concerning the appreciation of research activities (relevant to the company)
present in the university (96% against 74% overall), of being able to carry out joint
research (89% against 73%) and of the available laboratories / clean rooms (72%
against 51% of the total population). The ‘indifferent’ group is also clearly
interested in the university. Being able to collaborate on research scores
positively with this group (90% against 73% overall). The other two significantly
higher scoring items concern the ‘training side’ in particular: the possibility of
academic programmes for employees (88% against 57%) and the opportunity as a
company to provide classes in the university (74% against 47%). As this is the
group that is indifferent to the idea of ‘knowledge production’ (and also of
image), you would not expect this. One might suspect that start-up companies are
involved here, but there was no significant connection to be found.
Innovation in the companies in science parks
It may well be that a part of the population finds image more important than
knowledge productivity, but that does not alter the fact that the information
obtained shows that in the science parks concerned the necessary activities take
place in the field of R&D and innovation. Of the companies in the study
population, 26% spends nothing on R&D, but for most of the companies R&D
expenditure is greater than the norm for an average company. The average comes
out at 29%, the median at 13%. If we again separate the results into the four
subgroups of companies, we see that in the knowledge seekers almost three-
quarters of the companies spend 11% or more of their gross revenue on R&D. The
mixed group is the weakest in this aspect (table 2).
Table 2: the percentage of gross revenue spent on Research & Development
3– 10%
11 40%
> 40%
Activity in the field of R&D must lead to innovations: new products, services or
processes. Patent applications (and, further, obtaining patents) are one of the
consequences of this. Table 3 gives an outline of these aspects. Notably here the
knowledge seekers prove to score remarkably high in comparison with the rest of
the population. What is also striking is that, after we have already seen earlier
that the ‘indifferent’ attach greater than average importance to being able to
carry out joint research with the universities, they now also have an above-
average score regarding collaboration with other companies. The mixed group
also scores well in this regard. It is unsurprisingly the image builders who score
differently in a negative sense.
Table 3: the percentage of gross revenue spent on Research & Development
Works together with
other companies in the
Brought out a new
product in the past five
Brought out a new
service in the past five
48 (NS)
Brought out a new
process in the past five
10 (NS)
One or more patents
applied for in the past
five years
One or more patents
granted in the past five
NS: not significant
Science parks are intended to create an environment for businesses and
knowledge institutions in which they can function well by making use of each
other’s facilities, and where they can meet each other informally and exchange
knowledge. The fact that they can also be seen as an attractive work environment
is a plus point for the critical knowledge worker, just as the presence of a young
student population can be appealing to businesses. That is the concept. Strategic
partnerships and the exchange of (strategic) knowledge are no part of that. Such
things are so important that people are ready to travel across the whole world for
them; it is not something that happens somewhere within the confines of a
science park (Van Dinteren, 2007, 2009). That is not to say that interaction does
not matter. Creating a community on a science park is an important management
If we take a look at the results of this analysis, it seems possible to establish,
based on the answers from the companies, that in the Dutch science parks the
above points are met. There is an above-average investment in R&D and there are
collaborations between companies and the university and among the companies
even if this only applies to a third of the cases. So by and large, the
opportunities are there, but it is only a limited number of the businesses that
make use of them. Undoubtedly this has to do with the fact that a large group of
companies can be found (almost half) in the science parks that first and foremost
attach importance to the allure of the science park and above all to its effect on
their image.
The general conclusion appears to be that science parks in the Netherlands are
set up in such a way that they can fulfil the concept of a ‘science park’, but the
admission strategy lacks cohesion (see also Westhead, 1997). There is no critical
consideration of the companies that put themselves forward. Given that most
science parks are limited in size, the risk exists that the power of the concept is
undermined through this. To conclude, we invite you to consider the following
quote from David Adamson (director of Estate Management, Cambridge
University): ‘If someone rang and said, “I want to put up a 10,000 sq m building,” I
would ask which professors they are working with. If they couldn’t answer the
question, I’d tell them to go to one of the colleges. It’s not an open season science
park. You have to demonstrate links with the university to be here’ (Van Dinteren,
Figure 10: High Tech Campus, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
4. Considerations for science parks to remain
competitive 3
Disruptive technologies and new developments such as robotics, virtual reality,
the ‘Internet of Things’ and artificial intelligence are changing the way people live
and work. These changes have such an impact that one speaks of the fourth
industrial revolution era (Schwab, 2017). This era stresses the importance of
geographical areas of innovation where companies and institutions find the right
conditions to be creative and to attract the (often scarce) workforce they are
looking for. Although information is shared worldwide, local networks are still
vital and even seem to be gaining in importance. Spatial clustering makes it easier
to get access to information, to collaborate, to use particular services and to
create an environment that stimulates creativity and well-being.
The innovation district is a relatively new concept. It might be a competitor,
especially for science parks, as the innovation district often seems to be a better
answer to changing demand by the management of innovative companies, and
knowledge workers, especially the young ones. This is not to say that the science
park will be less successful, and companies and institutions might choose other
options. If only because some companies have specific space requirements or
possible environmental impacts that make them unsuitable for city-centre
We can consider innovation districts and science parks as different segments in
the market of innovation areas. Nevertheless, science parks have to adapt to new
requirements by their clients. Even if no innovation district is available in the
region, managers of a science park have to interrogate the qualities of their park.
Several science parks are already adjusting their existing plans in such a way that
a more multifunctional, innovation-oriented living and working area is created.
Examples are the plans for the Sydney Science Park (Australia) and Lindholmen
Science Park in Gothenburg (Sweden). In The Netherlands, Kennispark Twente
could be moving in the same direction, given the strategy that has recently been
In this chapter, we will focus on what opportunities science parks have to remain
competitive in the new era. We first analyse the innovation district as an assumed
competitor of science parks. The attention paid to this new development suggests
that it fits much better with today’s demand by the innovative industry. Based on
that analysis, we will present three considerations management of science parks
3 Based on a paper for the 36th IASP World Conference, Nantes 24 - 27 September 2019.
can make to keep up with the changing requirements by (resident) companies and
Figure 11: Cumulus Park, Amsterdam (The Netherlands). This innovation district is being
developed across various interconnected buildings (a project by Karres en Brands)
Innovation districts as a competitor
Innovation districts have been gaining a lot of attention in recent years. In the first
chapter, we defined an innovation district as follows: "A designated zone with its
own specific management team, whose main objectives include economic
development through the promotion and attraction of selective innovative
business for which specific services are provided, and that may also include
residential and cultural areas or facilities, or are embedded in urban spaces with
such facilities, and with which the economic aspects of the area of innovation
Until recently, innovation districts seemed to be a phenomenon that was strongly
represented in the United States of America. Although no research has been
carried out into this, it could be assumed that the doughnut structure that had
arisen in many cities in the USA and the revaluation of the old central districts
contributed to the emergence of these districts. Cheap buildings and land were
available for new developments thanks to the decades-long neglect of these old
areas. The spatial-economic changes in Europe and perhaps elsewhere in the
world have, to a lesser extent, turned away from those central parts of cities. That
does not alter the fact that outside the USA something of a catch-up effort seems
to be coming: in many cities and mainly in its central parts plans for innovation
districts are developed, or areas are under construction. Recent research in
Western Europe alone identified at least 70 innovation districts, with some being
quite mature and others only just emerging, according to Julie Wagner c.s. (2019).
Characteristics of innovation districts
One of the characteristics of innovation districts often is its centrality to active
urban environments. As economies become more specialised and knowledge-
intensive, companies increasingly appreciate the way city centres achieve a high
degree of face-to-face contact and informal meetings. The prediction that due to
new communication technologies “distance is dead”, has not come true.
An ‘open’ structure also characterises the innovation district. There are no sharp
borders, and if boundaries are defined, it is just for reasons of coordination. The
Knowledge Quarter in London, for example, describes its territory as an area
within a one-mile radius of King’s Cross railway station.
Moreover, these central locations give access to a broad pool of skilled and
creative employees, whom themselves appreciate the liveliness of inner cities,
especially when it comes to shopping and leisure offers, cultural facilities and
places to meet with others. Centrally located innovation districts can be reached
easily by different modes of transport. However, it is not necessary to travel or
commute, as the district and its immediate surroundings offer a great variety of
housing opportunities. This mix of functions makes the district dynamic and
attractive for young knowledge workers. They seek a vibrant, small community
with a combination of living, working and recreation.
From an innovation point of view networks, the offer of services, availability of
space, information among others are important and make it necessary to have
an organisation that takes care of the creation of such a specific work
environment and business climate. In the case of an innovation district, this will
be an organisation of companies and institutions established in the area, maybe
with (some) involvement of the municipality or other relevant parties (Chamber
of Commerce, for example). The focus will be on network and community
management. Real estate (property) management is not an issue. In an innovation
district management, in general, is much more about coordination than it is about
Finally, the innovation district might have a mix of target groups. There are no
statistics available that can prove this, but looking at the plans for innovation
districts, one gets the impression that creating a strong focus has no high priority.
Research revealed that innovation districts in the United Kingdom “are seeking to
build strengths and develop linkages across a range of different sectors,
recognising the benefits of interaction between them. They have all succeeded in
amplifying cross-sectoral activity’’ (see chapter 5). In this study it is demonstrated
that management organisations coordinate linkages between different industrial,
educational and research activities. “In London’s Knowledge Quarter, examples of
cross-thematic collaborations include:
- A strategic partnership between the Public Collaboration Lab at Central Saint
Martins and Camden Council. The lab explores the potential for, and value of,
a strategic collaboration between design education and local government and
how design research and teaching can contribute to service, policy and social
innovation in the local government context.
- Through the Digital Music Lab project, City, University of London’s Machine
Learning Group is working with UCL and the British Library, alongside Queen
Mary University, to develop research methods and software infrastructure to
explore and analyse large-scale music collections.
- London Metropolitan Archives worked with the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine on an activity with school children about the spread of
infectious diseases” (Arup / UK Innovation Districts Group, 2018).
There is no admission policy in an innovation district. People and companies can
establish themselves relatively freely (within the limits of the law). This is of
course due to the mix of ownership structures in such a district. On the other
hand, science parks often focus on a specific group (or groups) of companies and
institutions. The IASP 2018 survey shows that 61% of the science parks and other
areas of innovation describe themselves as specialist or semi-specialist.
Using these characteristics as a starting point, we now can present a table that
shows differences between innovation districts and science parks (table 4).
However, we immediately have to add that this does no right to the many
discrepancies one will find in practice!
Changes in locational requirements by personnel
As the demographics of the workforce continuously change, work conditions,
workplace and work environment have to change as well. Companies and senior
management teams that are most aligned with the new generations of workers in
terms of purpose, culture and professional development are likely to attract and
retain the best millennial talent (Deloitte, 2018). At the same time, companies
have to take care of employee experience, including fitness and wellness
programs, balancing financial and non-financial benefits and so on
Many studies show the shifting interests of young employees. According to a
study in the USA, generation Y wants a workplace that offers among others
flexibility and fun. They ask for modern and edgy workplaces that also stimulate
communication and collaboration (Steelcase, 2011). Changes affect not only the
inside of buildings but also the outside, including geographical location. Some
twenty interviews with entrepreneurs established in Science Park Amsterdam
showed that they estimate that the quality of the working environment on the
functioning of their employees is determined for 70% by the workplace and layout
of the building. Besides, 12% will be determined by the physical environment and
18% by the facilities in the immediate vicinity. So, the immediate environment has
a share of 30%, and this outcome suggests that the immediate surroundings of a
building do matter.
Table 4: differences between science parks and innovation districts (simplified)
Innovation district
Science park
Away from central areas of
economic activity, often at the
edge of a city
Mix, including living
Great variety
Cultural events and
facilities (employee-
Wide range
No events or incidental
Urban design
No master plan
(Existing) urban environment
with the addition of new
Master plan
New buildings and
No specific borders
Bounded area
Complex: many owners
One owner or a limited
Management focus
Focus on economic networks
and the community
Focus on economic networks
and real estate
Target groups
Often a limited number
Characteristics of
Small or medium-scale, easy
to mix with other functions
Small, medium and large scale
companies. Limited
environmental risks accepted.
Young employees seem particularly interested in a dynamic environment. “The
work environment, so far largely contained in the corporate building, has begun
to spread. Today, the city is the office. Work enters public space, third places and
homes, challenging the boundaries between private and public lives, work and
free time, and leading to new questions about different cultures, practices,
aspirations, and more” (Gall and De Benoist cited in Leyk c.s., 2010). But also, a
natural environment can play a role (figure 12). Outdoor space, in particular
nature, can have a positive effect on the well-being and work satisfaction of the
employees and reduce sick leave (Kaplan, 2007; Terrapin, 2012; see also
Bouwmeester, 2010). Moreover, the quality of the work environment can
stimulate productivity. 96% of the employees working in Chiswick Park (London,
UK) state that the “enjoy-work environment enhances my productivity”
Although a stimulating work environment with good facilities is highly
appreciated, it has to be recognised that these aspects are seldom decisive when
it is about choosing a job. Still, it will help people to be more creative, more
productive, enjoy work and make them stay longer in the company. Based on case
studies and literature, Pancholi c.s. (2015) state that the new generation of
innovation areas are increasingly becoming more people-oriented, diverse, open
and collaborative. “Major facilitators for placemaking […] are to have a supportive
and accessible management environment; vital and collaborative economic
environment; vibrant, open and creative physical environment and a well-
networked and eventful people environment.”
Figure 12: the importance of a green environment
(Feringa building, Groningen, The Netherlands; a project by Karres en Brands)
Changes in locational requirements by companies
Companies not only consider the requirements of their personnel. The ones that
have a strong focus on innovation, in particular, are continuously looking for the
right networks to operate in and to be established in. Over the last century, many
researchers have suggested, or concluded, that firms tend to cluster because
information and ideas move badly over space geographically. Although it was
believed for some decades, technology has not caused the death of distance.
Entrepreneurs are working both globally and locally. Hence, proximity still plays a
role, especially in the cases of knowledge and innovation.
Apart from specific qualities of the region, entrepreneurs working in Dutch
science parks and having an above-average interest in knowledge/innovation,
stress locational factors such as the closeness of a university and the presence of
networks between companies and institutions (see chapter 3). Based on a limited
number of interviews with entrepreneurs settled in Canadian science parks
Castonguay c.s. (2018) determined the following factors (without ranking):
linkages/sharing knowledge between companies (agglomeration effect), the
availability of premises and equipment, the availability of skilled human
resources, financial incentives, the reputation of the park, the geographical
proximity with specific actors and the geographical positioning of the park.
Answers by managers of science parks around the globe also point at the
importance of proximity to other companies and institutions. 59% have the
opinion that the quality of resident companies is an essential factor for the
competitiveness of science parks and areas of innovation (IASP, 2018).
The above shows the current requirements. We haven’t been able to detect
research, based on surveys focussed on entrepreneurs, that gives a clear picture
of future needs and that can help to design strategies for the (re)development of
science parks. Nevertheless, it is clear from the changing requirements by
personnel that this will influence the locational choices of innovative companies,
as attracting and retaining talent is crucial. Although ‘talent’ is a regional
characteristic, the possibilities of attracting talent will also depend upon the
location chosen in that region. Among others, multifunctionality, dynamism, and
an environment that stimulates encounters and creativity seem to be important.
Moreover, from a sustainability point of view, companies might be interested in
locations that have multi-modal accessibility. It is our impression that during the
last two decades sites that have no multi-modal access were less appreciated by
management. This might have contributed to a revaluation of the qualities of
central areas by a part of the business and can be of relevance concerning future
location choices by entrepreneurs.
Another trend that is worth exploring is a growing interest by companies in
crossovers, as mentioned before (chapter 2). In the recent past companies seem
to cluster with other companies in the same or adjacent sectors. Pancholi c.s.
(2015) suggest that newly emerging knowledge and innovative areas seek
diversity in terms of industries, firms and also in terms of knowledge workers for
their long-term viability and knowledge exchange. A study by Gwebu c.s. (2019)
concludes that firms residing in science parks with more co-located
complementary firms demonstrate better sales and sales growth performance.
These research outcomes are consistent with a trend in which crossovers
between industries are emphasized, assuming that this leads to innovations and
better business results. A paper by Sharp c.s. (2011) argues why the convergence
of life sciences, physical sciences and engineering is of great importance,
especially with regard to the future of health care. They see convergence as a
blueprint for innovation and state that such a convergence will provide a new
knowledge base.
Figure 13: the innovation district 22@Barcelona offers start-ups and established businesses
a creative space in a dense urban environment
Another trend is a (possible) response to the trend of de-concentration. In Europe
in the sixties of the 20th century, apart from some centuries-old universities
(Cambridge for example), many universities tended to concentrate their activities
in areas at the edge of the city where sufficient space was available. The
upcoming phenomena of science parks at that time and the link these parks
sought with the university also led to favouring isolated areas at the edge of the
city. For both developments, science parks and universities, there is growing
criticism about this spatial pattern and the way it functions. Too mono-functional,
too much focus on car accessibility, too far away from the inner city, not well
connected with or embedded in the city, and so on. Some science parks try to find
solutions for the problem (if it is perceived as a problem) by developing living
quarters on the park, which also helps to ease the threshold for facilities and
services in the park itself.
Companies also seem more interested in ‘density’. It seems that the
developments, as mentioned above, have stimulated the rise of innovation
districts. The changing functions of inner cities and the mass re-allocation of
traditional industries from the inner cities and surrounding old quarters give room
for new developments such as innovation districts. Innovation economies reward
urban density because of agglomeration effects. Open innovation stresses the
importance of working nearby, being able to share ideas rather than invent in
In line with the above, it is also notable that companies are revaluing vibrancy and
authenticity in (inner) cities. This trend is an extension of the former one. It is
well-known that artists, people working in creative industries and researchers
value a sense of place, including coffee shops, art galleries, and so on. A work
environment that encourages creativity and innovation, and offers a balance
between life, work and play. Such an environment is more important for
millennials, which is an important target group for innovative companies and
research universities in their competition to get the best talent.
Looking at today’s science parks in general, there can be a conflict between the
expectations of managers and employees on one side and the qualities of an
established science park on the other. Changes in demand can put the market
position of (older, depreciated) science parks under pressure, whereas innovation
districts seem to be successful, although hard evidence seems to lack so far.
Looking at table 4, we might find inspiration here to modify the science park
concept by transferring some of the assumed success factors of innovation
districts to that concept. We like to suggest three considerations that might help
the management of science parks to adjust to the present and near-future
demand by the people working in these innovative companies and the companies
- consider adding housing (including an impact on service level and
- consider a shift towards multiple target groups;
- consider laying more emphasis on community management.
Especially with regard to the first two considerations, one has to keep in mind
(again) that a science park is not a closed entity in a region. It is part of that
region: an ecosystem within an ecosystem. Setting out new strategic lines for a
science park also asks for a re-orientation of the position and role of the science
park in the region.
Consideration 1: adding housing
Innovation districts offer a variety of housing options. Can that be realized in a
science park? An interesting aspect is that building houses and (student)
apartments will broaden the economic base for services on the estate. That
includes the reachability by public transport. It is also often suggested that adding
housing should bring more liveliness and might help to create a community of
knowledge workers, entrepreneurs and students. But the vibrancy (especially in
evening hours) should not be exaggerated: it will often be the same as in every
other neighbourhood.
Talking about the opportunities for housing in a science park starts with the
question about the amount of space available. Since a science park can only
function properly if there is 'mass' (plenty of room for the establishment of
companies and institutions that can interact with each other), it is relatively easier
to think about housing when a science park is large (in terms of hectares) and of
course has sufficient space available. Allowing housing on land that can also be
used for innovative companies and knowledge institutions requires a sound
underpinning of the added value. If that is only on the financial level, that added
value is up for discussion. Think off adding housing (sometimes not even aimed at
knowledge workers) to get a healthy financial exploitation. This is the case, for
example, in the Alderley Life Sciences Park (near Manchester, UK) where "the
funds are released from that [residential] development to be used to deliver the
desired Life Science Park." A link between who lives there and the science park is
not laid in the plans for that science park. Something similar also applies to
residential construction in Hong Kong Science Park and Dubai Science Park.
Housing plans of the Bio Science Park in Leiden (The Netherlands) have a different
approach. One thousand homes will be realised that are intended for students,
graduates and employees of knowledge institutions and companies that are
located in the park. With this, one hopes to create a residential climate that
meets the requirements that are set today. The High Tech Campus in Eindhoven
(The Netherlands) wants to house ex-pat families. In 2013, the High Tech Campus
researched companies to gauge the need to live in the park. At that time, there
was hardly any demand. But in the meantime, opinions have changed, according
to a recent survey among the largest companies. Ex-pats who now come to
Eindhoven sometimes have trouble finding suitable housing. Then they end up
somewhere in a neighbourhood too far away from the campus, at a much too
high rent. By offering them temporary housing (2 6 months), ex-pats will have
more time to orientate themselves and find the right accommodation. Other
examples of including housing in the concept can be found in Manchester (UK)
and Berlin (Germany). In Adlershof Science Park in Berlin, 1,600 rented houses
and apartments are now being built, as well as 400 apartments for students. A
hundred homes and apartments are being constructed in Didsbury Science Park in
In these latter examples, the development is connected with the science park
development. Still, it is not clear whether this is accompanied by a strict
admission policy so that only the intended target group will settle in the science
park. So, if one chooses to add housing specifically for knowledge workers or
students on the estate, management has to keep control over the type of
households that are admitted. Such control can be organised by renting the
houses and apartments instead of selling them. Such a policy broadens the
activities of management, which is not always desired. Higher price levels can also
have a selective effect, but it is still uncertain whether this leads to the preferred
group of residents.
Although creating living quarters on a science park might seem an interesting
opportunity, one has to keep in mind that not everyone will be interested. A
science park might serve a particular market segment, but it is possible that
specific target groups are much more interested in another offer elsewhere in the
region. The care for a sufficient and sufficiently varied housing supply for
knowledge workers is primarily a focal point at the regional level. From numerous
discussions with knowledge workers and entrepreneurs, it is clear to us how
important the quality of the residential and living environment is. However, there
is not one ideal living environment for the knowledge worker. The residential
environment sought by knowledge workers partly depends on the stage of life in
which the household is. A region must therefore have a housing policy that takes
account of the requirements of knowledge workers. Within such a varied regional
offer, the science park can take a specific, distinctive position.
Consideration 2: shifting towards multiple target groups
Given the mix of activities in innovation districts, one could conclude that
possibilities for cross-fertilisation seem to be valued by knowledge workers,
institutions and companies (assuming that short distances do matter). If this mix
of industries in innovation districts is a success factor, it might be interesting for
specialised science parks to investigate the added value of broadening their target
group. Of all parks in the IASP survey of science parks and areas of innovation 25%
is specialised and 37% says to be semi-specialised (IASP, 2018). So, 38% of science
parks have a broad scope. These figures do not necessarily point at a base for
successful crossovers, for it is not clear what the admission policy is.
Given the growing interest in crossovers/convergence, the search for companies
that have the same knowledge base might be more rewarding than the choice for
specific sectors. We have described the trend already (chapter 2). It is interesting
to see that a similar idea can be found in regional economic geography: the
concept of ‘related variety’. This idea suggests that regions may benefit from
producing a variety of products and services, as more variety implies more
potential for inter-industry knowledge spill-overs (Frenken et al., 2007; Content &
Frenken, 2016). Knowledge originating from one sector is most relevant to, and
can most effectively be absorbed by, another industry that is related in the sense
that companies draw on similar knowledge (about technology, markets, etc.).
So, if science park management wants to stimulate diversity and inter-industry
relationships one has to keep in mind that this is probably most successful if
companies and institutions involved, although having different activities, do have
a similar knowledge base. That could be the leading principle for an admission
policy. However, also in this case we have to keep in mind the regional setting.
Linkages are never limited to the science park itself.
We present the hypothesis that the larger a science park, the better it is to have a
broad range of activities, using the same knowledge base, as the size of the park
offers many opportunities for interactions and possibilities for cooperation. The
smaller a science park, the better probably the creation of a specialised cluster
that is very well connected with companies and institutions in the innovative
region. This is not to say that large science parks shouldn’t be connected with the
region, but maybe to a somewhat lesser extent.
When thinking of knowledge bases, it is interesting to mention the hypothesis by
Van Winden & Carvalho (2016). They suggest that activities that rely on symbolic
knowledge (e.g., media, design) tend to have a stronger preference for urban
settings. This could be less the case for activities based on analytical and synthetic
knowledge (e.g., biotechnology and advanced engineering). This hypothesis can
be seen as an invitation to think about a division of tasks between centrally
located innovation areas (often innovation districts) and non-central suburban
innovation areas (as is the case with many science parks).
Consideration 3: laying more emphasis on community management
Good integrated management is a characteristic of a science park and a huge part
of management activity is focussed on networks and resident companies. Think of
business development, incubation and acceleration, setting up international
relations, investor relations and knowledge transfer. When looking at
management activities, we would like to make a distinction in network, property
and community management. We argue that more attention should be given by
science park management to community management to create a high-quality
workspace. The atmosphere, the events, the availability of ‘third spaces’, the
retail services, and so on, make an innovation district distinct and attractive and
probably a competitor of science parks.
Apart from the possible competition with innovation districts, we think that
community management is relevant because of the type of working environment
knowledge workers are seeking today and the impact it can have on the
functioning of companies. But first: what are we talking about? The focus here is
the community, defined as the entire group of people working in the estate. The
question is how to create a workspace that helps the community to be creative
and productive, and that creates a healthy and creativity stimulating work
environment. Here we can make a distinction in tangible and non-tangible
services. Among the tangible services are services that can be found in buildings
or have a specific physical infrastructure. Think of sports facilities, pubs, nursery,
restaurants, dry cleaning, shops, and so on. Management can at least facilitate
these services, but in many cases, they even have full control. With regard to
leisure services half of these are owned by the science park. In the case of social
services one third is owned by the science park. Half of both these services are
run by a third party (IASP, 2018). However, the successful offer of these services is
dependent upon the size of the consumer base. Hence, management has limited
power with regard to this kind of offer.
The creation of a pleasant, creative atmosphere (design, landscaping), the
organisation of social networks (including meeting, parties and the like) and the
offer of events and sports games are clear examples of non-tangible services. In a
somewhat broader context, the availability of bikes and courses and fitness and
wellness programs could be considered as non-tangible. And although the
consumer base plays a role here too, there might be more opportunities here,
given the changes in the demographics of the workforce, and hence the
requirements by knowledge workers. We do know that if high-quality community
management is among the assets, as is the case in Chiswick Park (London; figure
14), it is highly appreciated. 91% of the workers on Chiswick Park say that events
add value to their work-life; 63% states that summer sports add value; 95% says
that the physical environment and 67% says that health & wellness activities add
value to their work-life (
Figure 14: Chiswick Park in London is perhaps the good, most extreme example of varied
community management
Tangible and non-tangible services can have a positive impact on the people
working in a science park. Still, they can also stimulate informal meetings,
exchange of information and the creation of networks, all of which are essential
inputs for the functioning of a science park. In the case of High Tech Campus
(Eindhoven, The Netherlands) landscaping is supposed to stimulate this: lots of
green, hiking trails and many benches near the central lake and along the paths.
Concentrated parking facilities and services (The Strip) makes it necessary to
make short walks and stimulates meeting other people. The same design concept
can be found in other science parks, for example Green Park (Reading, England).
But there is more at the High Tech Campus: companies are not allowed to have
their own company canteen. In-company meeting rooms are permitted to a
maximum of 25 people. For food and larger meeting rooms, people should move
to The Strip where all services are concentrated.
Open for discussion
During the past sixty years science parks have been very successful and were able
to adapt to new demands and requirements over time. Science parks have
changed from a real estate concept towards an important innovation and
network concept that contributes to the success of companies and regions.
Science parks now have management organisations that are aimed at removing
concerns about daily, irrelevant matters among their resident companies and
institutions and connecting these with other companies and institutions in and
outside the park.
In the Fourth Industrial Revolution science parks probably no longer will be the
most prominent concept. Demand by companies and knowledge workers is
changing and new concepts, like innovation districts, are coming up. This does not
mean that science parks are at the end of the life cycle. Especially the older ones
need new investments and programs to keep up with the changes. Taking the
assumed success factors of innovation districts as a starting point, we have
presented in this chapter three considerations that might help (older) science
parks to become more competitive. These are early ideas to open up the
discussion about new requirements for science parks in the coming decades.
Looking for research outcomes during the writing of this chapter it became clear
that much is argued by authors and scholars, but less is researched well. There is a
severe risk of taking arguments from conventional wisdom and not robust
analysis. A research agenda for the coming years could be based on:
- the future locational demands by the managers of knowledge-intensive
(innovation-oriented) companies and institutions;
- the importance of the elements of a creativity stimulating work environment
for knowledge workers;
- the possibility of a division of tasks between different types of innovation
areas and the way such a variety can stimulate regional development.
5. The emergence of innovation districts in the UK 4
In the 1980s and 1990s, ideas about the West European economy changed from
service economy or post-industrial society into knowledge-based economies.
Innovation was considered crucial to be able to compete worldwide and, by doing
so, to prosper economically. From that moment on the generation of knowledge,
the establishment and growth of networks of business and knowledge institutions
and the availability of high-quality education (and in the end a high-quality
workforce) were considered to be essential to hold or strengthen economic
positions. Information and communication technology play an essential role in the
networks needed: the exchange of data, information and knowledge. But this
technology seemed to make distances disappear. That is why three decades ago
the concept of ‘death of distance’ was introduced. It questioned the necessary
proximity of persons in the case of knowledge exchange. The concept did not
hold. Areas of innovation, such as science and technology parks, still had a reason
for existence. However, it was realised that, as the economy became more
knowledge-based, it was both spatial proximity and high densities of face-to-face
contact as well as being well incorporated in global networks that make the
exchange of information and ideas, and hence innovation, successful. Knowledge-
driven firms value being in locations where they have wide access to a skilled
workforce, and which can provide the spaces and networks for people, firms,
researchers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, creatives and investors to collaborate,
compare and compete.
Thanks to agglomeration effects it is the cities and urban agglomerations that
have the best opportunities for companies and institutions to innovate. Within
these urban agglomerations the areas of innovation, where innovative firms,
universities and other institutions cluster, still play a role. In recent years the
typology is even broadened. Initially, areas of innovation consisted of science and
technology parks and industrial co-innovation parks, but in the 1990s a cautious,
new development was detectable. There was a steady growth of start-ups, and
for most of them, science parks were too expensive or (still) had too much a focus
on real estate instead of managing and stimulating the local networks. Former
manufacturing districts and city centre fringe seemed to be more attractive for
this group of entrepreneurs thanks to the low rents. The real estate market saw
new opportunities and started to create ‘creative factories’ in old buildings.
Restaurants, copy shops and other service activities detected the new
opportunities and new, unplanned developments occurred. Examples in London
are Old Street Roundabout (also known as Silicon Roundabout) and Shoreditch.
4 Based on a paper for the 36th IASP World Conference, Nantes 24 - 27 September 2019.
Written in close cooperation with Tom Bridges BSc, MSc, MRTPI, Leeds Office Leader,
Director Cities Advisory, Arup.
These kinds of developments made local governments curious and made them
think of helping to create such districts now known as innovation districts to
stimulate the economy and, at the same time, rehabilitate old (industrial) areas in
their cities.
Poblenau Quarter in Barcelona used to be a vital, large industrial district and is
generally considered to be the first government-led development of an
innovation district in Europe. Almost at the same time, comparable developments
started in the United States. Members of the International Association of Science
Parks (IASP) noticed the trend, and it eventually led to changing the name into the
International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (still
abbreviated as IASP). But for somewhat unclear reasons a publication by the
Brookings Institution ensured that the concept of innovation districts came to the
centre of attention in 2014.
Many innovation districts in the United States have since then been standing in
the spotlights, but the UK story (with London as an exception) is less well-known,
despite the success achieved by the first wave of innovation districts and the
considerable potential of others. As a result, there is a risk that the UK will not
grasp this opportunity fully. We need to ensure that innovation districts secure
the investment and support necessary to maximise their success. Arup has
worked with the UK Innovation Districts Group to assess the progress made by
innovation districts, factors for success, issues to be overcome and the priorities
and opportunities for the future. The research has included a review of literature
and interviews with those involved in innovation district projects. This chapter
describes some intriguing developments in the UK. Based on these and other
developments (which can be found in the full report; Arup, 2018) a series of
recommendations to make the most of the opportunities innovation districts offer
is set out.
The six innovation districts that were the focus for the research
Manchester: Oxford Road Corridor
Co-located on the Corridor are two universities, five specialist hospitals, local
government, entrepreneurs, global businesses, cultural assets and an Enterprise
Zone. The Innovation District is underpinned by world-class research and has
particular specialisms in advanced materials and health and life sciences. An
ongoing series of transformational investments have created an environment that
has seen exceptional jobs and GVA growth. This pro-active approach to place-
shaping has supported the development of a broader mix of uses and has seen
improved public realm and shared spaces; the introduction of ‘Dutch cycle lanes’
and traffic restrictions; development of new cultural facilities; and the integration
of leading-edge smart city technologies. Targeted business interventions have
focused on accelerating innovation, commercialisation and improved health
Glasgow West End and Waterfront Innovation District
This area is an ideal environment for innovation. It boasts one of the world’s
largest hospitals, a top 100 research-intensive university as well as cultural
facilities on the banks of the River Clyde. With the main partners Glasgow City
Council and Scottish Enterprise - and the support of the Scottish and UK
Governments and the wider business community, Glasgow University is
establishing an innovation district that will help push Glasgow into the top rank of
global innovative cities. Within the innovation district, Kelvingrove Art Gallery &
Museum and the Riverside Museum combined rank 10th in all UK visitor
attractions. Glasgow also boasts one of the most successful music venues in the
world the SSE Hydro. The West End and Waterfront area also host the BBC, STV
and other media companies, together with the University and its own significant
art and museum collections. The redevelopment of the city’s historic Kelvin Hall,
believed to be the first place in the world to combine major collections with
health and wellbeing linked to sport under one roof.
Leeds: Innovation District
The Innovation District will be focused on the academic and economic strengths
of the city, particularly health innovation, engineering, financial and business
services, data analytics and digital technologies. Digital pathology innovation is
the core of the development as Leeds is a globally leading centre in this field. The
development boasts the largest online pathology repository in the world. The
collaboration between Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and the University of Leeds
has created several novel spin-out technologies and applications. For example,
their strategic partnership with Leica Biosystems has led to full digitisation of their
pathology lab and establishment as the Leica Global Centre of Excellence in Digital
Pathology. Digital Pathology provides significant opportunities to apply artificial
intelligence and machine learning to increase the speed and consistency of cancer
Liverpool: Knowledge Quarter
In the heart of Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter are two University campuses, the
School of Tropical Medicine and the Royal University Teaching Hospital, as well as
Sensor City and the Materials Innovation Factory. Interesting to see that also the
Liverpool Science Park is established here (two buildings). Eye-catcher, among
others, is the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Disease Research (CEIDR),
launched in 2017 by the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool School of
Tropical Medicine and focuses on translational partnering in infectious diseases.
CEIDR provides a single point of access for the industry into a broad infectious
disease expertise base in Liverpool for translational activity and helps to develop
relationships with industries. Apart from innovative firms and institutions and
learning Knowledge Quarter offers a mix of cultural activities, theatres, cafés,
restaurants and the likes.
London: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
In this area, where the Olympic Games have been held, a new Culture and
Education District will be developed, focussing on education, innovation and
enterprise. Already two universities are established here (including the Advanced
Propulsion Centre and the High-Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute) and
three more will be located here soon. Based in the former Olympic Press and
Broadcast Centre, Here East provides space for start-ups and companies, offering
a high-quality work environment. Special attention is given to programmes that
support these entrepreneurs and help to build linkages between companies and
universities. For Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Knowledge Quarter at King’s
Cross is an inspiring example. It is even suggested to create a link between the
two developments, as they are only seven minutes away by high-speed rail link.
Figure 15: Knowledge Quarter, London
London: Knowledge Quarter
Within a one-mile radius of King’s Cross (approximately a 10-12 minute walk) is a
remarkable cluster of organisations spanning research, higher education, science,
art, culture and media. Individually, they offer resources for specialists in
numerous fields, from architecture and the arts to biotechnology and veterinary
science. The Knowledge Quarter brings together over 85 cultural, research,
scientific, business and academic institutions both large and small under one
umbrella. The Knowledge Quarter fosters knowledge exchange and collaboration
between staff and users of cross-disciplinary communities to exchange ideas,
expertise and evidence. Developing networks to encourage collaborative projects,
training, commissioned research and access to funding, engaging a wide variety of
audiences and benefiting the local research community.
Main features and typologies of UK innovation districts
The research identified the main features of UK Innovation Districts. There are
three main categories of actors. First, there are knowledge-producing anchor
institutions such as research universities, major teaching hospitals, and other
research bodies. In some UK innovation districts, this includes cultural institutions.
Professional bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians (in KQ London and
Liverpool) are also important. Many of these organisations are investing
significantly in new buildings and campus developments, and in doing so, seeking
to reflect the increasing importance of supporting local economic growth as part
of their mission.
Second, there are knowledge-intensive firms that value proximity to the
knowledge-intensive anchor institutions as well as each other. These firms range
from start-ups and spin-outs from universities and other publicly funded
organisations, fast-growing technology-driven scale-up firms, to larger corporates
who locate part of their research and development and intrapreneurship
functions in innovation districts. A proactive and coordinated approach to build
appropriate networks and relational infrastructure between the different actors is
essential for a thriving innovation district. The engagement of angel investors and
venture capital is also a necessary feature for success.
Third, innovation districts require the development of the right type of physical
spaces: workspaces; collaboration space; infrastructure; and public spaces. A
range of workspace is needed to accommodate and facilitate the growth of
knowledge-intensive firms of different types. This may include specialist physical
requirements for lab space. Formal and informal spaces are required in order to
foster collaboration and interaction between organisations and their people,
including co-working space, areas for met-ups and conferences, as well as cafes,
bars and restaurants. Increasingly, high-quality public realm, good physical and
digital connectivity and a strong amenity offer and vibrancy is needed to support
informal interaction and networks, as well as creating an environment that is
attractive to knowledge workers and occupiers. The management, programming
and curation of activity in these spaces are essential, in addition to the physical
Government is also an important stakeholder. At a national level UK Government
directs research spend in the context of its National Industrial Strategy, and there
is scope to focus and join-up this investment more effectively within places,
including Innovation Districts. National and local government also have research-
intensive departments or agencies that contribute to the success of innovation
districts. Example include NHS Digital in Leeds, the Financial Conduct Authority or
Transport for London at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. City
Government also has a significant role in the planning, promotion, leadership,
governance and public sector investments necessary to make innovation districts
a success.
It is possible to identify a physical typology of UK Innovation Districts, as set out in
table 5. Increasingly knowledge-intensive jobs are clustering in the CBDs of UK
cities. Several cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Newcastle are
expanding the physical size and economic contribution of their city centres
through regenerating and connective city centre fringe innovation districts.
Table 5: a locational typology of UK Innovation Districts
Others are creating or enhancing separate new urban quarters that are well
connected with the CBD and other economic assets. The most high-profile
example is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London which has benefited
in huge transport infrastructure investment to connect it to central London and
Canary Wharf, as well as to surrounding centres and neighbourhoods. Other
examples include the Glasgow West End and Waterfront Innovation District
where recent and current investments in a major expansion of the university
campus, a new hospital, and new conference and exhibition facilities are being
brought together to create a coherent urban district. In Knowledge Quarter
Liverpool, new campus and commercial development is creating a vibrant urban
Progress and lessons
This chapter looks at the progress and lessons from the six innovation districts
that form the UK Innovation Districts Group. These projects are at different stages
of development. All innovation districts seek to build strengths and develop
linkages across a range of different sectors, recognising the benefits of interaction
between them. They have all succeeded in amplifying cross-sectoral activity. This
is based on an understanding of particular areas of expertise, informed by
evidence (including Science and Innovation Audits). This approach combines a
broad-based approach along with a focus on specific strengths, seeking to
increase agglomeration and knowledge spillovers. There are also similarities and
potential linkages between innovation districts and the potential to build on
collaborations between academic institutions.
There are differences between innovation districts in the way in which they seek
to support entrepreneurship. Providing incubation and collaboration space and
support is an important focus of most (but not all) of the projects. There are
differences in the extent to and the way in which these spaces are curated by
research-intensive organisations. In some cases, the approach to supporting
business start-ups and scale-ups is integrated within wider approaches to
business support in relevant cities and city-regions. However, in other cases, there
is not a structured approach to attracting and growing firms within the innovation
district. There is a view amongst some of the stakeholders interviewed for this
project that more could be done to build the wider ecosystems of support for
commercial spin-outs, start-ups and scale-ups.
Cultural institutions and attractions are becoming an increasingly important
component of innovation districts. Several innovation districts include, or are
close to, significant cultural or visitor attractions, and they are securing new
investment from cultural bodies which want to move into these areas or upgrade
their existing facilities. Several also include arts and cultural academic institutions
and departments. This adds to the offer of innovation districts. It provides an
important area of academic research for some, one of which is relevant to the
economic trend of increasing synergies between technology and the arts. Cultural
institutions also create a buzz, vibrancy and activities in evenings and at
weekends, helping to retain the student population post-graduation.
Innovation districts are supporting inclusive growth. Some innovation districts are
involving partners and organisations in initiatives to forge links with schools and
young people in the surrounding areas. This increases awareness of, and access
to, the range of learning and career opportunities available to them, providing
mentoring, advice and work experience. Innovation districts are creating new
public spaces and amenities for residents of nearby areas, and through physical
investments are linking these residential areas to education and employment
Successful innovation districts require substantial capital investment in
infrastructure and place-shaping. A feature of well-established, successful
innovation districts has been large-scale capital investment in the public realm
and infrastructure. More investments are asked for by digital infrastructure. This
is an important ingredient for success. Several innovation districts are developing
strategies for investment in advanced digital infrastructure, including fibre to the
premises, 5G, and sensors and Internet of Things systems, and are putting in place
frameworks for exploiting the research and economic potential of the data that
will be generated from this. They are becoming exemplars in the context of the
smart cities agenda and are creating new platforms for testing and developing
advanced urban services. And talking about investments, it is obvious that a
proactive and enlightened approach to development is required to build the right
type of business space to attract and accommodate the right type of occupiers.
More attention is paid to the way the design of buildings can help to create
linkages and an image of openness. Whereas previously buildings and spaces
between them faced inwards, increasingly the design of new buildings and
campuses are facing outwards. The aims are to attract people into these buildings
and spaces, encourage and facilitate interaction between people and animation,
and improve connectivity with other assets and areas.
As said before, the concept of an innovation district initially was a spontaneous
one, without any governmental meddling. Given the potential of such
developments, that seem very well to fit new demands by companies and
institutions, leadership and coordination are essential to successful innovation
districts. A feature of all the projects considered for this research is that they are
being championed and steered by the relevant university Vice-Chancellors, NHS
teaching hospital trust chairs and Chief Executives, and local
authority/development corporation Leaders and Chief Executives. The successful
projects have been prioritised for investment at a city or city-region level.
Good leadership and coordination need a clear vision and plan, which can flex
over time. Many of those interviewed stressed the importance of setting a clear
vision and masterplan and embedding this in planning policy to provide a clear
and consistent framework for development. Whilst it is important that this can
flex over time, several interviewees identified the risk of allowing or bringing
forward development that offers a short-term commercial gain, which may not be
in the long-term best interest of the core mission of innovation districts.
Several of those involved in the interviews and discussions through this research
spoke about the importance of linkages between innovation districts and wider
networks as economic assets in their cities and city-regions. The general view is
that innovation districts can provide a useful focus for promoting innovation
across the economy of a wider city or city region area.
Figure 16: Glasgow West End and Waterfront Innovation District
Conclusion and recommendations
Government should prioritise support for economic growth in the places and
initiatives where it has the greatest chance of a return on its investment.
Innovation districts are enabling our cities to create new products, processes,
technologies, and high growth firms that will drive productivity growth. They are
supporting the creation of new, high-quality jobs in accessible locations,
regenerating parts of our cities, and supporting inclusive growth. A clear
conclusion from the research is the importance of developing the right softer
networks and relational infrastructure between actors in innovation districts
alongside the approach to developing the right buildings and physical
The main conclusion from this research is that government should prioritise place-
based investment in innovation districts to boost productivity, support inclusive
growth, and to deliver the Industrial Strategy.
Innovation districts and knowledge quarters are emerging as transformational
projects which are driving economic growth. Knowledge-intensive jobs and firms
are increasingly clustering in or near city centres where innovators, entrepreneurs
and R&D intensive businesses can benefit from access to a vast pool of skilled
people, university researchers, healthcare clinicians, and knowledge spillovers.
This is a result of people and organisations collaborating, comparing and
competing across different sectors. Cities, universities, teaching hospitals, cultural
and professional institutions are supporting and capitalising on this trend through
significant investments in new buildings, campuses, workspace, and public realm
which are creating new urban districts and engines of more productive growth.
These projects are at different stages of development in different locations, and
there is a range of approaches and areas of focus. Generally, the focus on
innovation has emerged in response to a physical regeneration opportunity and
reflecting how new infrastructure and place-shaping has attracted innovative
organisations into areas.
Universities, hospitals and cultural institutions are recognising their role as anchor
institutions for economic growth. Cities are recognising the need to support
initiatives to boost productivity and to attract and grow the firms that will create
new products and processes to create and sustain, wealth in the future. And
enlightened developers are recognising the opportunity to support new patterns
of working, living and leisure in urban areas.
The full potential of innovation districts will only be realised if there is stronger
support from different tiers of government, and if all cities and innovation district
projects ensure there is a clear focus and sufficient resources (both in developing
and delivering these projects), and by working more closely together. Through a
renewed focus on support for innovation districts, the UK and devolved
governments and cities can help deliver against the aims of the Industrial
Strategy, secure accelerated productivity, support inclusive growth, continue to
reshape and regenerate our city centres, and build the networks of collaboration
to create the firms, products and processes to drive forward our city economies.
We would like to end with the following recommendations (details can be found
in the report; see the reference at the back of the book):
government and cities and city-regions should prioritise innovation districts
to support the delivery of the Industrial Strategy;
innovation districts should build on their existing work to help lead the way in
increasing productivity through inclusive growth;
innovation districts should work together more closely as a national network;
cities, city regions and innovation districts should continue to secure capital
investment in public spaces, physical and digital infrastructure, and new
buildings in innovation districts;
government, LEPs and Combined Authorities, and cities should invest in
developing the hard and soft networks to support business growth in
innovation districts.
IADP in the picture
IADP excursion to Barcelona, 2018
IASP World Conference, 2019
IADP Winter Seminar, 2019
IASP World Conference, 2017
IASP European Conference, 2017
IADP Autumn Seminar, 2019
6. The university as a catalyst in innovation district
development 5
Until the 1990s, there has been a strong focus on the physical aspects, mostly real
estate, when developing innovative working environments. This focus was typical
for the first decades of the, quite often mono-functional, science park concept.
Nowadays, we very clearly understand that developing a science park or another
type of innovation area is not (solely) a real estate operation. We and others
like to stress the importance of the functional linkages between companies,
institutions and universities enforced by strong management of these networks.
The added value of an innovation area is in these networks, but also in the
creation of a work environment that stimulates creativity. Altogether also known
as the ‘software’.
So, in today’s innovation areas, the development of a knowledge network of
companies and institutions is essential. The same goes for the creation of a
community (which is more focused on personnel, organising activities and an
excellent workspace). Altogether this forms the ecosystem. Although this doesn’t
alter the fact that ultimately businesses and institutions located in the innovation
areas also need modern real estate, adaptive infrastructure and attractive public
spaces. Given this, specific requirements can be placed on buildings, particularly
respecting the needs for community building and networking. For instance,
pedestrian flows, the creation of meeting points, the concentration of catering
and restaurant facilities where pedestrian flows meet, creative work
environments, and so on. For the successful management of any area of
innovation, it is crucial that the different layers in the social-spatial structure of a
site or area are recognised and respected: the networks, the infrastructure and
the buildings.
But first of all, the ‘guests’ in the estate (companies, institutions, others) are
central. In many cases it can be observed that one guest is ‘leading’ or better
said is considered to be the ‘anchor’ of the development. That is often a
university in the case of a science park and per definition a large, innovative
company in the case of an industrial co-innovation park. But what about the
upcoming innovation districts? The available literature points out that in general
one has the opinion that a thriving innovation district needs at least one anchor
firm or institution. This can be a research university, another institution working
in the field of research and innovation or a (large) company.
5 Based on a paper for the 35th IASP World Conference, Teheran 2 - 5 September 2018.
Altogether we like to distinguish four crucial drivers when looking at and analysing
all types of areas of innovation:
- networks & community;
- entrepreneurial dynamism;
- infrastructure & facilities and
- a comprehensive business case (figure 17).
Figure 17: IADP-model to create successful R&D work environments
The leading question for this chapter
Given the great importance of innovation and the exchange of information
between stakeholders involved, (research) universities and leading, innovative
firms probably plays a crucial role in the development of innovation districts.
“Probably” because, as far as we know, there are not yet research outcomes
available that make clear what precisely that impact can be. Until now, it is more
about expectations.
In this chapter, we mainly focus on the role of universities in innovation districts.
These districts are characterised by their embeddedness in the city, innovation, a
dynamic mix of functions and good public transport. It seems that for a growing
number of firms and institutions, active in the fields of science and innovation, the
innovation district is the working environment of the future. Such an environment
might also (or maybe specifically) attract the millennials in the war for talent.
Given the link of science parks with universities, this raises the question if an
innovation district can be booming without a university in the district? Or, in case
of an already established university or university institution: can such a university
be the starting point for an innovation district?
The latter question is posed by the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
This university is very well established in the city with three of their four sites
located in Amsterdam. An ‘interconnected concentration’ of specialised clusters,
which together constitute a network of knowledge and individually function as
catalysts for their immediate surroundings. One of these clusters is situated in the
inner city, and the university intends to create an innovation quarter (‘University
Quarter’) here, consisting of university buildings and the surrounding area. It is
the opinion of this university that a modern university is no longer an ‘ivory
tower’. It stands in the middle of society and in front of that society and is a
crucial member of a modern, knowledge-oriented society. Against this
background, the question arises how the University Quarter can be turned into a
success. The aim is to create added value to the university, the environment and
the city and what role the University Quarter plays in this respect. Also, the
surrounding area is vital to the university: the space between the different
buildings, but also between the clusters, needs to stimulate the interaction
between inhabitants, students, companies and knowledge institutions. At the sub
local level (University Quarter), that space must also provide a pleasant working
environment that stimulates creativity and innovation. The critical question is:
how can we shape this area into a successful whole, involving all stakeholders and
encouraging innovation?
In this chapter, we will focus on the question of how a university can function as a
catalyst in innovation district development. To get a preliminary answer to this
question, we have used the available literature, news items and some interviews
with representatives of universities in existing innovation districts.
Relevant trends
Many different developments have been recognised that, positively or negatively,
elucidate the growing interest in and success of innovation districts. In chapter 4
we have already described several relevant business trends. These trends are
mainly about a response to the trend of deconcentration, the search for ‘density’,
a revaluation of the vibrancy and authenticity in (inner) cities and a growing
interest in cross-overs. When looking at the possible (anchor) role of a university
in an innovation district, the following two trends might be relevant:
The ‘opening up’ of the universityAccording to Goddard & Valance (2013)
universities have to become civic universities, meaning that they have to turn into
an urban ‘anchor’ institution, being of significant importance to the economy and
the wider community life of the cities in which they are based. Or, as Goddard &
Valance put it, institutions that are of the city not just in the city. Universities try
to do this in different ways by appointing innovation officers (linked to the
industry), setting up incubator centres, organising specific education programs for
the city population, and so on. The ‘opening up’ is sometimes also stimulated by
taking the initiative to settle in an innovation district or by starting an innovation
district by itself.
From triple to quadruple helix - It is not surprising that this interweaving of the
university with the city led to a shift of the triple helix concept towards the
quadruple helix. It is the cooperation of university, (local) government, firms and
inhabitants. This might have to do less with innovation, as far as the local
population is involved, and points at among others education, continuous
learning, living labs and other forms of co-production with citizens. Several
authors state that universities should go to or settle next to deprived areas to
encourage developments there.
Although these trends can explain the upcoming phenomena of innovation
districts, we do not suggest that this is the end of science parks. Science parks will
continue to exist, but the concept has to be adjusted to new standards (see
chapter 4). The innovation district is just another concept in the realm of
innovation areas.
Moreover, it is essential to consider science parks, innovation districts and
innovation campuses as focus points within an innovative region. It would be a
grave mistake to think that such a cluster or set of clusters will in itself determine
the innovation power of a city or region. Also, because too many relevant,
innovative firms and institutions are established outside these innovation areas.
The university, the networks and the ecosystem
Given the trends above, a university might choose to move (partly) into an
innovation district, which seems to be more open to the city than a campus at the
edge of a city. Will that make it easier for a university to become a part of that
ecosystem? Let us first have a look at the relationship between a university and a
science park. It is often stated that universities play a crucial role in the
development and success of the networks and the ecosystem in a science park.
Proximity to a university is generally believed to be helpful (if not crucial) to
establishing and maintaining a working relationship. 84% of the science parks are
within 5 km of their closest university, and 66% are either on or adjacent to the
university campus (EC, 2014). These statistics suggest that the proximity of a
university is crucial to the development of a science park. With regard to the new
concept of innovation districts, the question arises whether an innovation district
can do without a university. Or, the other way around, can a university campus be
a good starting point for an innovation district?
A study of six science parks in The Netherlands (Van Dinteren, 2012; see chapter
3) revealed that such a relationship with a university could cover a lot of activities
and is not solely limited to knowledge linkages. It even appeared that other
aspects/facilities were generally seen as more important by the entrepreneurs
established in the science park. The most important are the availability of
graduate students, access to libraries and data systems, and the access to
laboratories and clean rooms. Only after that come the aspects more directly
associated with research such as the opportunities for joint research between the
company and the university and the presence of relevant research activities.
These percentages are influenced by the fact that, in these science parks, firms
are established that do not directly belong to the target group. Admission policy
on some science parks in The Netherlands is relatively weak. If we focus on firms
and institutions that belong to the target group, these show above-average scores
with regard to the appreciation of research activities (relevant to the company)
present in the university (96% versus 74% overall), of being able to carry out joint
research (89% in comparison to 73%) and of the availability of laboratories/clean
rooms (72% versus 51% of the total population).
Proximity, mass and density
The need for a university can be related to the desire of firms and other
institutions to be able to consult researchers at the university quickly and
informally. On the other hand, how relevant is proximity given globalisation, the
internet and other possibilities for rapid exchange of knowledge? Recent studies
seem to indicate that proximity still plays a role. Linkages between firms and
research institutions function both on the local and global level. Sometimes a
university is even criticised for too much global interest. For example, Meric
Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, agrees with the criticism that his
university focuses too much on international relationships, reputation and
rankings than on its community partners (
they-reside/ ).
A study about research outcomes by Dutch CPB (2017) shows that the chance that
a company builds on the knowledge produced at a university decreases the
further it is from the university. The results of the study suggest that knowledge
spill-overs are localised. The size of the effect also depends on the sector and the
size of the university. The study is, however, focused on the regional level and is
not clear about the impact of small(er) distances.
Andes (2017) states that over the last century hundreds of studies have proved
the benefits of density and proximity for innovation and that these findings
suggest that knowledge sharing among universities, research labs, and firms exists
at the neighbourhood level. Andes does not elaborate on what proximity exactly
means. Still, he shows that the size of the city (mass) and the density of the urban
environment play a role, as universities established in that type of environment
flourish. He analyses downtown universities in metropolitan areas (the reasoning
here is based on numerous economic studies which show that large metropolitan
areas experience much stronger positive effects of proximity than smaller cities).
In his research, Andes compares the commercial outcomes of research
universities located within employment-dense neighbourhoods (e.g. downtowns)
in the 100 largest cities to the average research university. He finds that
compared to their peers located in smaller towns, suburbs or rural areas on a per-
student basis, ‘downtown’ universities:
- produce 80% more licensing deals;
- disclose 123% more inventions;
- receive 222% more income from licensing agreements;
- create 71% more start-ups.
These outcomes suggest that universities located in dense employment centres of
cities achieve more significant commercial impact for their research. Clustering of
economic activities does matter and inner cities, where most of the innovation
districts can be found or are located nearby, provide the right conditions for such
a clustering.
The university and the innovation district: two models
There are two simple models when we look at the possible relationship between
a university and an innovation district. In the first case, an innovation district is
under development and looks for a university or annexes of a university to
complete the picture, as it might be clear that a vital institution or company can
be an essential anchor in such a development. It helps to create an image, but it is
also an essential node in the local innovation network.
The second option is a university taking the initiative to develop an innovation
district next to its premises, or maybe even mixed with its own buildings. The
motivation, as described above, is to become a part of the city and not just being
located in it.
Model 1 - Katz & Wagner (2014) state “universities are particularly helpful drivers
for growing districts; for this reason, many districts that did not originally include
universities (…) have convinced universities to build satellite campuses”. Initiators
of the I.D.E.A. District in San Diego were worried about this development because
a few years ago the migration of technology companies to the downtown area
had started to take hold. In 2013, 25% of the new downtown leases, many of
them tech companies, were executed by companies coming from outside of
downtown. To speed up and assure development a corporate leader was needed
“who can accelerate the transformation”. In December 2016, UC San Diego, a
major research university, announced a 6,100 m2 downtown outpost. It is now
expected that satellite businesses will surely follow. “As soon as UCSD or one of
the other big academic institutions puts a beachhead downtown, then we’ll know
downtown has arrived”, potential users told Carlson, a CBRE commercial broker
active in downtown office leasing (
In the early days of the well-known Boston Innovation District, its position was
strengthened when a satellite campus of Babson College was established. In 2011
this campus was expected to serve “as the academic anchor to help fuel further
growth in the Innovation District”. “Nobody creates jobs like entrepreneurs, and
nobody creates entrepreneurs like Babson,” said Mayor Menino. “The inclusion of
a top-tier academic institution here in the Innovation District is a key part of the
supportive infrastructure we are building and providing to the people and
businesses in this neighbourhood. Babson’s expertise and partnership
undoubtedly will help us fuel even more connectivity and growth across this
district.” (
In the case of the 22@Barcelona innovation district, companies have been the
anchors in the early stage, but nowadays universities seem to have taken over this
role. Being a publicly financed university, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, for
example, felt it was obliged to move a part of its activities, especially in the broad
fields of communication, to the Barcelona innovation district.
Model 2 - or ‘the other way around’: the university that wants to become an
innovation district. The reasons for this can differ. Offering a pleasant
environment to work and study in is one possible reason, but creating stronger
links with companies (the entrepreneurial university) is certainly another one. An
example is Seattle’s University District. This district extends beyond the physical
boundaries of the university, which makes the development much more difficult
because of the existing neighbourhoods. This raises a conflict between the
envisaged development and liveability. The city takes care of good planning,
assuring that there will be sufficient affordable housing, instead of gentrification.
A light-rail station in the district will help to discourage motor vehicle traffic
In the case of Melbourne (Australia) the development of an urban innovation
district (MID) is an initiative of the City of Melbourne, RMIT University and the
University of Melbourne. Home to 21% of all knowledge sector jobs in Melbourne,
the urban innovation district features the central campuses of RMIT and the
University of Melbourne, State Library Victoria, Queen Victoria Market, Royal
Exhibition Building, Trades Hall and the Melbourne Museum. “Through
community events and improved public spaces, MID will provide more
opportunities for Melbourne’s knowledge workers, researchers, students,
business and community organisations to connect and collaborate, creating
innovative ideas essential for the city to continue to thrive and prosper. Planning
considerations for the area will help innovation flourish and will include upgrades
to streets, parks and other public spaces, while at the same time protecting the
district’s suburban character” (
The added value of a university for an innovation district
If in an innovation district it is felt that a university is needed as an anchor, it is
assumed that such an institution will be crucial in stimulating innovation, and in
creating a scientific, innovative ecosystem. The development of the Boston
Innovation District mentioned above shows that such an anchor helps to
strengthen the image of the development and stimulates entrepreneurs to
choose to settle in the district. But the added value of a university is not limited to
companies and other institutions. From the idea of a civic university, a university
well embedded in society, there are also (high) expectations about the ability of
the university to stimulate social and economic development in deprived areas, as
it is often stated that many innovation districts are located near such
neighbourhoods. Special (education) programs might help young people (with
parents that have no university education) living in these neighbourhoods,
offering better opportunities to visit a university. Students at the university can
also play a role in these deprived areas as volunteers, supporting people, local
schools and organisations. For the people living in these quarters, but also for
others living in the surrounding areas, the university can provide access to
facilities, such as gyms, meeting rooms, restaurants, library and the like. The
university can also organise exhibitions and lectures and can actively participate in
local projects, helping to find solutions for specific problems (see Goddard &
Kempton, 2016).
It is our impression that, in the literature, particular attention is paid to the
relationship of the university with surrounding districts, while in practice it is a
relationship with the city, and perhaps the region too. This doesn’t exclude that a
certain accent can be placed on deprived neighbourhoods.
The added value of an innovation district for the university
Although a university might be necessary as an anchor in an innovation district,
the innovation district can also be of importance for the university itself as Bruce
c.s. (2015) have described. Being established or having satellites in an innovation
district helps research and innovation in universities. The authors sum up many
examples (in the United States of America) of educational and research
institutions that have moved vital facilities and departments as a means of
generating greater innovation output to retain or achieve competitive advantage
in their respective clusters and fields. By seeking the best places within their
region (or even within other regions), universities want to retain or strengthen
their competitive power.
Of less significance is maybe the fact that the settlement of a university (or an
annexe) might be perceived by students as an attractive location because of the
dynamic environment “where people unexpectedly bump into each other again
and again in their daily routines”. An environment formed by cafeterias,
convenience stores, theatres, restaurants, and so on. As many innovation districts
can be found in the central parts of a city, good public transport is guaranteed.
Figure 18: Campus del Poblenau, part of the 22@Barcelona innovation district
Further details from three cases
Besides the desk research, various interviews with representatives of universities
were held. Special thanks to the following persons, because they were so kind as
to provide us with detailed information about their developments:
- Anna Belchi (Campus del Poblenou, Barcelona, Spain: see figure 18)
- Margaret O'Mara (University of Washington, Seattle, USA)
- Derek McCormack (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand).
Barcelona and Seattle have already been shortly introduced above. The
development in Auckland is at an early stage. Massey University, Auckland
Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) and BNZ are working together
to develop a smart innovation district in the northern part of the city, comprising
five districts. The goal is to create a highly prosperous, vibrant and liveable
community, where aspirational businesses and talented people will want to live
and work, produce exportable innovation and collectively build a better future for
themselves and their families.
Looking closer at these three examples, it is evident that there are significant
differences in the relationship (and its origin) between the university and the
innovation district. In Barcelona, the establishment of an innovation district was
going on for almost a decade when the Pompeu Fabra University decided to move
a part of their activities to this redevelopment area. The university jumped, in a
way, on a moving train. The universities in Seattle and Auckland were already
established in the neighbourhood that started turning into an innovation district.
These universities were in the heart of a development that seems to be partly
autonomous and partly driven by their presence.
So, the Pompeu Fabra University was acquainted with the development of the
22@Barcelona innovation district. Therefore, the university was able to look at
the economic profile of the innovation district and decided to move specific
activities to the 22@Barcelona district that have strong linkages with the clusters
established in the area. The Campus del Poblenou is focused on ‘Communication
and Information Technologies’. This is not to say that this is the strict focus. It was
stated that the combination of specialisation and cross-overs will stimulate
innovation. So, the collaboration of the university with other institutions and
companies is not limited to media and computer technology, but also involves
other clusters such as medical, energy and design. The combination of
specialisation and cross-overs is emphasised by the other interviewees as well. In
Auckland one perceives the cross-clustering a characteristic of innovation
districts, giving to new patents, business start-ups, and industry involvement, thus
also effecting an increase in employment and wages.
In Seattle the University of Washington was surrounded by a university-oriented
neighbourhood in its immediate vicinity before the concept of an innovation
district was even mentioned. Its huge potential became apparent only a few years
ago and since 2012 the government and university have been working closely
together to manage a more robust and future-oriented change. The commitment
of the University of Washington to build a better U(niversity) District is driven by:
- continuous, meaningful collaboration with the City and community partners;
- learning from the experience of the most dynamic neighbourhoods around
the region, the nation, and the globe; and
- fostering growth that is complementary to other parts of the city and region,
adding to the overall economic and cultural dynamism of the State.
The case of Seattle also shows the possible disadvantages of spontaneous
development. In Seattle, it became apparent that walls along and overpasses
across 15th Avenue had created a physical barrier between the city and campus.
The new development plans provide an extraordinary opportunity to knit
together campus and city, according to our interviewee.
Like Seattle, universities in Auckland were already established in the area that has
become an innovation district. Since its transition to a university in 2000 Auckland
University of Technology saw its surrounding neighbourhoods change, which
might have been partly related to the presence of the universities. The same goes
for Massey University, established in the same part of the city. Recognising that
this part of Auckland was in the midst of constant residential and commercial
property development and growth, Massey University held a symposium in 2015
to consider the future of Auckland North. This symposium demonstrated a clear
interest in and excitement for bolstering an innovation district and engendered
the support of city leaders, university leaders and researchers, various business
owners and entrepreneurs. This interest led to the ‘Grow North’ initiative that
focusses on establishing a (more formal) innovation district. Clusters of innovation
are already beginning to emerge organically in Auckland North.
For the universities of Seattle, Auckland and Barcelona, it is evident that they
contribute significantly to the success of the innovation district. Although it is
difficult to determine its exact benefits, there seem to be some common
- being partners in joint innovation projects with companies established in the
district (not excluding others, of course);
- providing facilities and equipment to support company R&D projects;
- foster start-ups by setting up incubators;
- offering educational programs to the inhabitants of the surrounding
neighbourhoods, especially in the case of deprived quarters, to enhance
education levels and lower the threshold to the university (inclusion and
engagement; sometimes also relevant to the city as a whole);
- creating positive urban change in the cities they are located in, especially in
the direct vicinity of the innovation district: more varied housing options
(enhancing diversity) and amenities, and engagement in neighbourhood
When it comes to the benefits of being located in an innovation district, all
interviewees agree that the university benefits too. Most important advantages
for the universities are:
- understanding the needs of society/companies and adapting the education
program to it;
- the interchange of staff and students across porous boundaries. Innovation
districts can enhance student experiences, and stimulate research and
creative activity among the university staff and students;
- having close working links with start-up and more mature companies in
innovation districts enabling the flow of graduates into employment and
cooperating on joint R&D projects;
- the possibility of neighbourhood redevelopment to expand the campus
Finally, according to our interviewees, many factors determine the success of an
innovation district development. The following starting conditions were stressed:
- having a strong basis: innovative firms present and willing to engage in
collaboration, an entrepreneurial university focussed on innovation, the
active contribution of venture capitalists and other investors;
- taking the very long term as a starting point, but also focus at quick wins;
- creating a vision and strategy that is shared with and supported by investors,
companies, universities, government, inhabitants and other stakeholders.
And especially concerning the university:
- a pro-active strategy by the university for open collaboration with business
and industry;
- an active commercialisation office or company within the university;
- active support for student entrepreneurship plus entrepreneurship training
for staff and students;
- flexible commercialisation policies to enable easier spin-out of new ventures
or licensing of Intellectual Property;
- having the university commercialisation office well linked to relevant
industries and product sector experts who bring IP ventures to the right
know-how and seed capital in the Innovation District.
Preliminary conclusion
In an innovation economy networks are essential. Large innovative companies
and universities can build the webs connecting these networks. Although we have
all the opportunities to establish worldwide networks, research suggests that
proximity is still important. But what is proximity? Is that on the neighbourhood,
the city or the regional level? What about smaller cities and larger ones? 66% of
all science parks are established on the campus of a university. That seems to
suggest that short distances are relevant. And, as we have seen, that it is not just
because of networks, but also about facilities and the like, we could state that
proximity also helps to create that dynamic environment that students,
innovators and companies are looking for. In that respect, it is also interesting to
notice that universities in dense areas flourish.
Given these outcomes, one could suggest that it is relevant to have a university or
an annexe of a university in an innovation district, as distance does matter.
However, there are as yet no hard research outcomes that make it clear that the
success of an innovation district is dependent upon a university. Apart from that,
the cases described here suggest, in short, that the establishment of a university
or annexe can help the development of an innovation district by creating trust
and contributing to a positive image of the development.
It is also interesting to note that universities themselves believe in the concept.
Innovation districts can try to attract a university. Still, we have seen that there is
also another model in which the university wants to develop an innovation district
on its premises or adjacent to it. In our opinion, the interviews we have held
confirm the outcomes of our desk research.
Although it is all based on circumstantial evidence, our research seems to suggest
that the establishment of a university (annexe) can be a significant anchor in the
development of an innovation area. We like to invite our fellow researchers to
gather more hard information on the linkages between a university and its
innovation district. What does proximity mean in terms of (kilo)meters? Keep in
mind that proximity not only refers to exchanging information but is also relevant
with regard to other aspects such as availability of students, facilities and the like.
7. Managing the ecosystem 6
As stated before in other chapters, the shifting away from a real estate
development towards stimulating innovation has changed the management of
science parks. It is not about managing buildings, but managing a community of
people working on innovations. Due to its character managing an innovation
district might be somewhat different from managing a science park or a co-
innovation park. The management of such a development is still critical, though
functional blending of activities is a relatively new element in this concept and
might ask for a somewhat different approach. Due to the functional mix, other
parties than the usual ones might become involved, such as the inhabitants of the
area. Moreover, the link with a university is generally less intense, though this can
be partially overcome by establishing a ‘branch’.
There are alterations in the science park concept over time and this has led to
changes in the way these estates are managed. Such modifications will continue,
for example, due to the somewhat isolated geographical position of many science
parks, often at the edge of a city. That poses questions about the embeddedness
of science parks (and probably also co-innovation parks) in the region. Maybe the
region is a better scale: an innovation region with multiple focal points
(innovation areas) and a network of companies and institutions which are located
in those innovation areas and elsewhere in the region. That poses questions
about the way innovation areas and their linkages with the region are organised.
It also raises the question of whether management at the regional level is needed.
And in the next step one has even to consider the global level. Thanks to travel
options, telecommunications and the like, regions are included in worldwide
networks through the process of globalisation, and innovation parks become hubs
in the global knowledge network.
This chapter will discuss some of these changes, using a simplified model of
changing innovation area concepts and changing management activities.
Changing concepts, changing management
Figure 19 sketches the development of the innovation area concept over the past
decades, also showing the emergence of innovation districts and the growing
interest of embedding these concepts in regional and worldwide networks. It is an
ideal-type image which will rarely apply to a specific innovation area. The figure
mainly shows that currently much more emphasis is placed on networks and
(therefore also) on the regional and worldwide embedding of an innovation area.
6 Based on: Jacques van Dinteren, Laurens Tait and Frank Werner (2017), Paper for the
34th IASP World Conference in Istanbul, 26-29 September 2017.
The more complex these networks are, which is also related to the geographical
scale, the more critical the management of the ecosystem.
Figure 19: ideal-type development of the innovation area concept and its management
There are many ways to manage a company, and there are also many ways to run
an innovation area. When analysing management concepts, ownership is an
important starting point. A survey of IASP in 2012 (European Commission, 2013)
shows that the public sector dominates: 55% of science parks in Europe are
owned by public parties, mainly local government, public universities and regional
government. This can be a mix of public parties. 15% of the science parks are
privately owned (private universities and foundations, and private companies)
and 31% of the science parks have mixed ownership. In this latter case, local
government, public universities and private companies dominate.
The survey mentioned above relates ownership to land, sites, infrastructures and
buildings. If perceived in such a way managing a science park doesn’t differ from
managing an industrial estate or a business park. This focus on the physical
aspects of a science park was typical for the first decades of the science park
concept, as stated earlier. In that stage, the specific characteristic of a science
park was a physical clustering of a particular target group; in this case, a group of
companies focussing on research and development. During the years, the insight
grew that the real economic asset of a science park is in the linkages between
companies, institutions and a university. The conclusion was that successful
science park management needed an extra layer. The management of a
commercial estate will focus on infrastructure underground and the surface and
will take care of buildings and the built environment (figure 20). But the added
value of an innovation area is in the ‘software’ as an extra layer. That
distinguishes it from a regular industrial site or business park:
- management of the networks between companies, institutions and a
- management of the facilities for companies, institutions and a university;
- management of the services for the community (the people who work on the
Figure 20: physical and socio-economic layers as individual and interconnected components
of an innovation area
The left column of figure 19 shows how the management of innovation area
concepts has adapted to evolving concepts and the shift from real estate towards
the community (to put it briefly). Today many science parks in the western world
are ‘halfway’, although many differences exist between countries and regions.
There is a focus on creating networks between the parties in the estate and
management also takes care of a high-quality environment for the employees to
sustain creative processes and to attract and keep a critical and highly educated
workforce, the community. When looking at creating the community joint
festivities, sports events and having a drink together should help to develop this.
Part of this is also the quality of the working environment.
Although building a community is perceived today as an essential part of an
innovation part, the most crucial is creating the networks between companies and
institutions. Matchmaking, organising seminars, support with patent applications
are all matters which are part of the extensive service package which innovation
area management offers.
So, today, there are many different management activities: area and real estate
management, network and community management, but also facility
management, asset management, etc. All these management activities generally
have different stakeholders. This can cause problems. How can these different
fields become properly connected and organised coherently? Is it possible to have
one organisation that can do business on behalf of all partners? It is of course
(relatively) easier if only one owner manages the science park. In The Netherlands
that is the case with the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. Other science parks
show a somewhat more complex organisation.
Figure 21: network management benefits from good, interaction-oriented architecture (Plus
Ultra I building, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
A project by Proof of the sum and Kadans Science Partner)
Managing science parks in The Netherlands
Although there are many differences, one can generally state that many of the
Dutch science parks now are in the stage of further developing the community
and building networks. The question who manages the science park is relevant
here because in general, there are two or more stakeholders. The exception is the
High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. The starting point for the Philips High Tech
Campus were the high-quality laboratories of Philips (NatLab), the trend towards
open innovation and the feeling by management that the company had to
stimulate the regional economy. This latter aspect had to do with the decision by
Philips to move their headquarter from Eindhoven to Amsterdam in 1998. In a
discussion with the government, the idea of an open innovation park came up to
compensate for the loss (although only 300 jobs were involved). Initially, the park
was managed by Philips, but in 2008 Philips decided to sell the campus to focus
on their core business. In January 2012 Philips established High Tech Campus
Eindhoven Site Management B.V. (without the name Philips). This organisation
takes care of daily management, including marketing and promotion. In that year
a Dutch investor Chalet Group) bought the campus and today all management
activities are still in one hand. However, some specific and unique facilities are
still owned and managed by Philips.
New tenants in HTCE get two types of contracts with two organisations affiliated
to Chalet Group: a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with HTCE Site Management
and a Lease Contract with Calittum HTCE for rent and parking space. The first one
covers three types of services: obligatory collective services that are site related
(e.g. energy, ICT, infrastructure, etc.); optional communal services if needed; and
optional services that are free choice and taken via HTCE Site Management
(Curvelo Magdaniel, 2016).
TU Delft Science Park once started in 2005 as a predominantly real estate project
by property developers Bouwfonds MAB and ING Real Estate: Technopolis
Innovation Park (120 ha). University and municipality took care of the financial
aspects of land development, including financial risks. The developers took care of
the master plan and the investments needed, would buy the land from the
owners and develop the buildings. All parties worked together in a project
organisation, but due to the lack of expertise in the development companies, the
project failed and the university took over. The exclusive cooperation agreement
between the landowners of Technopolis and ING Vastgoed and MAB / Bouwfonds
was disbanded. Today the university has the lead and is looking for the best form
to manage the development. The university also offers space for companies in
their buildings. Municipality and university work together on the marketing of the
science park in ‘Delft Technology Partners’.
So far for the involvement of real estate companies. One is successful, but
another wasn’t. In The Netherlands property developers are reluctant, and if a
developer is interested the question often is how to convince investors. It is a
niche market. If developers or investors don’t feel comfortable, projects will not
start. Even when it is only about buildings, it is sometimes difficult to get the
project going. Specialisation, however, helps as is shown by the successful
developments of Kadans Science Partner. A fascinating aspect is that this
developer/investor combines a real estate development with the management of
the building, as the building remains in the portfolio of Kadans. Kadans provides a
total package of services, including workspace facilities, coaching, advice,
financing and access to its network.
In the case of the Amsterdam Science Park the estate is owned by municipality
and university together. However, it is a patchwork of ownership. The estate of
the Dutch Scientific Organisation (NWO) covers the northern part of the science
park and has its own park management. Municipality and university sell the
available land for the same price. Both took care of the urban master plan, which
is supervised by the municipality.
The construction zones are subject to a building code that is characterized by a
continuous and varied network structure that establishes a system of successive
public and semi-public spaces. Situating communal amenities at junctions fosters
concentrations of public activity. Instead of standing like isolated jewels in the
landscape, the buildings ‘fold’ themselves around the courtyards and interweave
with adjacent buildings. In this way, interactivity, knowledge exchange and
cooperation among the companies in the area are stimulated. This creates a base
for successful social and economic interaction through stimulating a ‘xenogamy’
of various talents, ideas and insights.
Companies that want to establish on the park go to the central organisation which
takes care of the first contact. Contracts are handled by the landowners and the
municipality checks if the company fits into the profile as described in the spatial
plan. Daily management is carried out by the Science and Business Organization of
Amsterdam Science Park. This is the central and joint organization of the three
founding partners, which are the city of Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam and
NWO. These three are in the board of directors and are joint by four other
representatives of companies and institutions on the park. The main goal of the
S&B organisation is to connect entrepreneurship, education and research and to
connect Amsterdam Science Park with its external partners. The main focus points
of the management organisation are:
- acquisition & retention;
- valorisation & entrepreneurship;
- corporate communication;
- functions & facilities;
- internal & external relations.
It all works well together, but it is said that an improvement can be achieved if the
land is in one hand and competencies are concentrated, both preferably within
the existing management organisation.
The same thoughts can be heard at Utrecht Science Park. Stakeholders are the
Utrecht University, the academic hospital and the Hogeschool Utrecht (College).
Provincial and local government is also involved but not an owner of buildings or
land. Daily management is carried out by Foundation Utrecht Science Park.
Several parties own the land. That includes parking spaces, but the fares for
parking are not synchronised. Interested companies and institutions can have a
site on the basis of a land lease. Available land is sold by the university, but in
generally interested parties start the discussion with the foundation.
In a project carried out in 2016, the joint conclusion was that too many parties
were involved in too many aspects of the science park. The ambition is to get a
slim and flexible organisation, which will be the existing foundation. The question
is; however, which tasks can be handed over, under what conditions (mandate).
The joint ambition is
- a shared vision regarding the development of the science park (urban
development, economic impact, target groups, growth strategy, etc.);
- joint park management;
- joint mobility management;
- joint parking management;
- cooperation in offering services to the community;
- marketing and acquisition of the target group, including a strict admission
In the vision, attention has to be paid to the question of how costs, profits and
risks can be distributed among the stakeholders. Whatever the organisation, the
stakeholders are all customers of the daily organisation (the existing foundation).
A stakeholder analysis was determined to find out which stakeholders are
involved and the degree of the influence they can get. With regard to the area
development, each party retains his responsibilities as currently laid down. Joining
forces in this field will be discussed in a later stage.
Looking at Utrecht and Amsterdam, it is clear that there is a feeling that the
governance of a science park should be organised in such a way that all relevant
tasks are carried out by one central organisation. This suggestion can be heard in
several other places in The Netherlands. Managers involved are very much
interested in (relatively) simple organisations as have been set up for Oxford
Science Park or Surrey Science Park in the United Kingdom. So, during a project
for Utrecht Science Park the question rose: what can be a rather general
governance model that takes every stakeholder seriously, but makes one central,
coordinating management office possible? How to optimise governance?
Optimalisation of governance
The starting point is that in today’s innovation areas the development of a
knowledge network of companies and institutions is essential (including facilities).
The same goes for the creation of a community (which is more focussed on
personnel, offering services and a top working environment). All together: the
ecosystem. Of course, one also needs an attractive area and buildings that suit
the needs of companies and institutions that are focussed on innovations. One
assumes the following, simple line of reasoning: development strategy
ecosystem physical development. It cannot be denied that first of all the
‘guests’ in the estate (companies, institutions, university, leading innovative
company, others) are central (figure 22).
The scheme makes a distinction between the socio-economic system (blue) and
the physical, spatial system (brown) which creates the conditions for the socio-
economic system. The two main activities in the socio-economic system will be
carried out by one organisation, taking care of daily management and strategies
and is controlled by a supervising council in which all relevant stakeholders are
represented. That includes the stakeholders responsible for the area and the
buildings. Now we have to add government. First of all, because the plans have to
fit into the legal plans of (local) government. Also, the university, for example, will
have its own policy that can be relevant for the development. Now we have a
model that is recognisable in several science parks in The Netherlands (figure 23).
Figure 22: in search for a governance structure starting position
Figure 23: the extended scheme
Problem is, however, that daily management has no direct control over the
physical environment. In many of the Dutch cases, this doesn’t hamper the
functioning of daily management. However, it is often said that it makes
coordinated management of the estate less easy and asks for more coordination
than would be necessary. Therefore, the next step in the model is to give the
ecosystem management organisation the mandate to take care of the area and
real estate management (figure 24). To complete the pi